- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 2, 2003

Cuomo and Hillary

Former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo says he would back Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, if she should decide to enter the race.

“I would support her in a flash if she came into the race, absolutely,” Mr. Cuomo told the New York Post’s Fredric U. Dicker.

“I believe she would have an excellent chance to defeat President Bush and, yes, I believe she would win,” said Mr. Cuomo, who just last month urged former Vice President Al Gore to enter the race. Mr. Gore declined.

Mr. Cuomo’s comments “came as a new round of excitement surrounded the former first lady, whose official Web site has been featuring e-mails from supporters urging her to run for president,” Mr. Dicker said.

“Clinton, however, insisted again over the weekend that she would not enter the race.”

Focusing on Carolina

With former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont leading among Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, his rivals for the party’s presidential nomination are turning to South Carolina to salvage their White House dreams, Cox News Service reports.

The state’s Feb. 3 primary — immediately after the Iowa caucuses Jan. 19 and the New Hampshire primary Jan. 26 — is the first in the South, and five of the nine campaigns have opened offices in South Carolina with full-time campaign operatives, reporter Matthew C. Quinn writes.

Sen. John Edwards of neighboring North Carolina — for whom a South Carolina win is considered crucial — has been running television ads there for two weeks. And Mr. Dean, flush with money from his successful Internet fund-raising campaign — began airing ads Friday.

“It’s all starting to happen,” said Joe Erwin, the state Democratic Party chairman. “You can feel a decided acceleration in the focus of every campaign.”

As Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut put it during a South Carolina campaign swing last week, Mr. Dean’s surge has “altered some strategies.”

Perhaps the most dramatic example of the state’s growing importance is that Sen. John Kerry, once the New Hampshire front-runner, has chosen Charleston for the high-profile official launch of his presidential campaign today.

Back to the ‘70s

“No one will confuse the diminutive, bald and pudgy Cruz Bustamante with Ashton Kutcher (Cosmo Spacely, George Jetson’s employer, is a better likeness). But if California’s lieutenant governor loses next month’s recall vote, it may be because his candidacy reminded too many viewers of ‘That ‘70s Show,’” Bill Whalen writes at the Weekly Standard Web site (www.weeklystandard.com).

“Bustamante, the only prominent Democrat on the second half of the recall ballot, hasn’t been able to shut down the media’s interest in his involvement with the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan (MEChA) while he attended Fresno State back in the mid-1970s. MEChA, which advocates a separate Chicano nation, goes by the slogan: ‘For the race, everything. For those outside the race, nothing.’

“Over the weekend, Bustamante appeared on the Fox News Channel, where he was asked no less that four times by host Tony Snow why he’d associate with such a then-divisive outfit. He didn’t shut down the controversy. The most definitive statement the lieutenant governor could muster: ‘Racial separatism is wrong. … You have to look at what people do, not just what they say, and I think I’ve demonstrated my ability.’

“A towering denouncement of racial politics it wasn’t. But then again, Cruz Bustamante is anything but a towering figure in California politics. Look at his record: It’s the embodiment of mediocrity-on-the-march in term-limited California. Then look at the ideas he’s offering as a recall candidate: California, under Cruz control, could be a bad economy made much, much worse by one man’s short-sightedness,” said Mr. Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Lieberman’s plan

Saying the rising cost of health care is a top concern for American workers, Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman made public Sunday his proposal to provide affordable medical insurance for laid-off workers.

The Connecticut senator, on a Labor Day weekend campaign swing through New Hampshire, said his plan would limit spending on health insurance to no more than 7.5 percent of any family’s income.

“The number one and number two worries of American workers are about job security and about health care security,” he said in a phone interview with the Associated Press.

Mr. Lieberman said he would release a more complete health plan today.

Laid-off workers, Mr. Lieberman noted, can continue to get coverage under their former employer’s health plan if they pay the full cost of the premium under the plan know as COBRA.

However, coverage is expensive — thousands of dollars a year — and for workers without a regular paycheck coming in, it’s often impossible to afford.

Mr. Lieberman’s proposal would allow laid-off workers to receive a tax credit or, in some cases, collect a government check to subsidize the COBRA payments until the employee finds another job. No worker would pay more than 7.5 percent of his or her income to keep COBRA coverage, Mr. Lieberman said.

He estimated the total cost of his health care plan at $55 billion per year for the first five years — a sum he said he would cover by eliminating some of President Bush’s tax cuts.

Owens, wife split

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens and his wife, Frances, have separated after 28 years of marriage.

The breakup, which came as a surprise to Coloradans, is a trial separation and no formal documents have been filed, Mr. Owens said Sunday.

“This is a difficult and very personal time for our family,” Mr. Owens said through his press secretary, Dan Hopkins. “Frances and I recognize that while we would prefer to deal with this matter privately, our public profile necessitates this announcement.”

News of the separation surprised lawmakers and analysts, the Denver Post reports. The couple has three children, Monica, 20; Mark, 17; and Brett, 12.

Mr. Owens, 52, is a Republican serving his second term as governor, having been elected by a landslide last November.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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