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Zell & Swifties

The American Conservative Union announced yesterday that it has tapped Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, to present the “Courage Under Fire” award to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth at the Conservative Political Action Conference’s Feb. 18 banquet.

Mr. Miller and the group of Vietnam veterans were behind what were perhaps the campaign’s two fiercest and most memorable attacks on Sen. John Kerry’s unsuccessful presidential bid.

Mr. Miller, who is retiring next month, scorched Mr. Kerry in a Republican National Convention keynote address in which he suggested the four-term Massachusetts Democrat had voted to cut so many weapons systems that it appeared he wanted to send the military to war with only spitballs.

Recount in court

Republicans in Washington state yesterday prepared a lawsuit to try to prevent King County from including 573 newly discovered ballots in a hand recount that could erase their gubernatorial candidate’s razor-thin margin of victory.

The Republican Party expected to file a motion today in Pierce County Superior Court seeking a temporary restraining order against King County officials, the Associated Press reports. A judge was tentatively scheduled to hear the motion the same day.

Election officials in King County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Seattle, want to count the ballots, which they say are valid votes that election workers mistakenly rejected.

Republicans want those ballots to stay rejected. At the very least, they want King County to investigate further to ensure proper custody before adding them to the mix.

“If King County moves forward, we will never know the truth about those ballots,” state Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said. “We want to get some answers about these very suspicious ballots.”

Republican Dino Rossi won the Nov. 2 election over Democrat Christine Gregoire by 261 votes in the first count and by 42 after a machine recount. Yesterday, with all but three of the state’s 39 counties reporting, Mr. Rossi had gained 32 votes in the hand recount for a margin of 74.

Lott vs. Rumsfeld

Sen. Trent Lott doesn’t believe Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld should resign immediately, but he does think Mr. Rumsfeld should be replaced sometime in the next year, the Sun Herald newspaper in Biloxi, Miss., reports.

“I’m not a fan of Secretary Rumsfeld,” Mr. Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told the Biloxi Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. “I don’t think he listens enough to his uniformed officers.”

Mr. Rumsfeld has been criticized since a soldier asked him last week why the combat vehicles used in the war in Iraq don’t have the proper armor. Both Mr. Rumsfeld and President Bush have said more vehicle armor will be shipped to Iraq.

Mr. Lott said the United States needs a plan to leave Iraq once elections are over at the end of January and doesn’t think Mr. Rumsfeld is necessarily the person to carry out that plan, reporter Melissa Scallan wrote.

“I would like to see a change in that slot in the next year or so,” Mr. Lott said. “I’m not calling for his resignation, but I think we do need a change at some point.”

Ad lingers

The campaign manager for Sen. John Kerry’s failed presidential bid says she regrets underestimating the impact of an ad that questioned the Democrat’s Vietnam War record.

Mary Beth Cahill, who spoke at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government with Ken Mehlman, President Bush’s campaign manager, said the Kerry campaign initially thought there would be “no reach” to the ad from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Instead, the ad, which initially aired in just three states, became a central issue of the campaign, eventually forcing the senator from Massachusetts to personally deny the group’s charges that he did not deserve his combat medals.

“This is the best $40,000 investment made by any political group, but it was only because of the news coverage that it got where it did,” she said.

“In hindsight, maybe we should have put Senator Kerry out earlier; perhaps we could have cut it off earlier.”

Mr. Mehlman said that it was natural that the ad had the reach and impact it did, because Mr. Kerry made his Vietnam record a central part of his campaign.

“Because Senator Kerry was so focused on that part of his biography, it came out as an issue,” he said.

Rick Reed, a partner with the media firm that produced the ads, issued a statement yesterday scoffing at Miss Cahill’s remarks.

“The idea that Kerry’s people miscalculated the impact of the ads is absurd,” Mr. Reed said. “The Kerry campaign put all its effort into trying to discredit the ads, which didn’t work. Now the spin is that they didn’t know the impact of these ads. Grade-school kids knew the ads were hurting Kerry, so obviously Kerry’s campaign knew.”

Fooling no one

“The one statistic confounding pundits in this election is the number of gays who voted for George W. Bush,” Rich Tafel writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“Polls show that the president received anywhere from 1.5 million to 2 million gay votes, up from 1 million votes in 2000 and double the number of gay votes for Bob Dole in 1996. This dramatic increase comes despite the fact that no gay organization endorsed him, no gay journalist editorialized on his behalf, and no gay leader supported him,” said Mr. Tafel, former executive director of Log Cabin Republicans and author of “Party Crasher: A Gay Republican Challenges Politics as Usual.”

“Gay voters, like most swing voters, knew both candidates were saying things to get elected. The Kerry campaign thought that by opposing gay marriage, praising anti-gay-marriage initiatives, not showing up to vote against the Federal Marriage Amendment, speaking against a judge’s pro-gay ruling in his home state, and making sure every American knew that the Republicans had a lesbian in their family, social conservative voters would be fooled.

“No one was. Social conservatives aren’t the yahoos the Kerry campaign took them for. Senator Kerry became a cartoon of what the Left thinks of the Right. His team believed that by gay-bashing, church-going, and geese-shooting, Kerry could make conservative voters believe he was one of them. It didn’t work.”

Paying the price

Two local elections officials in North Carolina resigned after investigations revealed mishandling of vote tallies in Gaston County, including more than 13,000 votes that weren’t discovered until after Election Day.

Sandra Page, elections director, and Tony Branch, chairman of the elections board, resigned Wednesday after a closed-door meeting of the board, the Associated Press reports.

The counsel for the state board, Don Wright, had questioned Miss Page for two days about the county’s numerous problems on Election Day, including a failure by poll workers to check the number of ballots cast against the number of people recorded as voting.

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

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