- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

Weak strategy

“Stop measuring for drapes, Nancy,” Boston Herald columnist Virginia Buckingham writes.

“If Democrats can’t win a special election for a seat left open by the guilty plea of a senior Republican congressman for bribery in a political environment that can politely be described as more sour than milk left on the counter for a week, how can they expect to win back control of the House of Representatives, handing the speakership to Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)?

“Democrats are claiming the fact that the Republican Party had to spend $5 million to assure victory for former Rep. Brian Bilbray in California’s GOP-friendly 50th congressional district is a sign of their own strength.

“In reality, the loss is a sign of the weakness of a national strategy which hangs its hopes on the GOP’s ‘culture of corruption’ and that Viagra of politics — ‘change.’ ”

“It’s dangerous to put too much stock into one special election, especially in a state in which former Gov. Jerry Brown is selected as the Democratic nominee for attorney general on the same day Rob ‘Meathead’ Reiner’s pet cause of tax increases for universal pre-school is wiped out by 20 points,” the writer said.

“But Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean ignores the signal from California at the party’s peril: If the Dems can’t win on the corruption-and-change issue in the district of Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham, who now sits in a federal prison cell, even when they are running against a former GOP member of Congress turned lobbyist, they better figure out a stronger message.

“It turned out that the issue which voters cared about in the 50th was not ‘corrupt money from Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay’ as Democratic candidate Francine Busby and Dean hoped. It was the hot-button that plays right to the GOP’s strength — illegal immigration.”

Inconvenient result

“On Tuesday, the day of the election in California’s 50th Congressional District to replace imprisoned Republican Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham, the CBS Evening News ran a story touting a potential Democratic takeover of the seat as reporter Jerry Bowen described the race ‘as a referendum on both the Republican Congress and the Republican president, whose popularity is sinking,’ ” the Media Research Center’s Brent Baker writes at www.mrc.org.

“But after the Republican won, the newscast was silent about it Wednesday night. In fact, the morning after the vote, CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer declared on ‘The Early Show’ that despite the win by Republican Brian Bilbray over Democrat Francine Busby, the 49 to 45 percent victory is ‘a warning shot for Republicans.’ Busby, however, got just one point more of the district’s vote than did John Kerry in 2004,” Mr. Baker said.

“Schieffer had set up CBS’s Tuesday night story about the San Diego County race: ‘Democrats believe they have a chance to take back control of Congress from the Republicans this year, and they’re looking to a special election tonight for a sign that they may be right.’ Jerry Bowen trumpeted how ‘when disgraced Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham went off to prison for taking millions of dollars in bribes, no one predicted what just may happen today as voters in this 25-year-long Republican stronghold pick his replacement: That a Democrat, local school board member Francine Busby, could emerge the winner.’ ”

Soccer voters

World Cup soccer is “mas que un partido” — more than a game — to a group of Democrats. It’s a chance to win over Hispanic voters.

The New Democrat Network is starting a $2 million Spanish-language campaign of radio and television advertisements urging Hispanics to get involved in the political process. The five-month effort begins with ads during the World Cup soccer games that begin today in Germany.

Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, said the group wants to use a “major sport like soccer to brand Democrats for a wider audience.”

The TV ad shows an empty soccer field as an announcer says: “For years now, we’ve been awaiting this moment. Our country is again ready to return to being the great nation that all of us always dreamed of. Get involved. It’s up to you.”

The ads will run on Univision, Telefutura, Fox Sports en Espanol and Futbol de Primera, the radio soccer network, the Associated Press reports.

The radio ad will air in 70 markets nationally, and the television ad will focus on six states and nine major markets — Albuquerque, N.M.; El Paso, Texas; Orlando and Tampa, Fla.; Tucson, Ariz.; Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver and Colorado Springs.

Eagle eyes

The governor of Texas wants to turn all the world into a virtual posse, the Associated Press reports.

Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, has announced a $5 million plan to install hundreds of night-vision cameras on private land along the Mexican border and to put the live video on the Internet, so that anyone with a computer who spots illegal aliens trying to slip across the border can report it on a toll-free hot line.

“I look at this as not different from the neighborhood watches we have had in our communities for years and years,” Mr. Perry said last week.

This week, he said cuts in federal homeland-security funding, a rise in reports of border violence and the crossing of Mexican soldiers into Texas about two years ago have demonstrated that “Texas cannot wait for Washington, D.C., to act.”

Under the plan, announced on the eve of the state Republican convention, cameras and other equipment would be supplied to willing landowners and placed along some of the most remote reaches of the border. The live video would be made available to law-enforcement members and anyone else with an Internet connection.

Viewers would be able to call day or night to report anything that looks like trespassing, drug smuggling or something else that is suspicious. The governor plans to pay for it all with grant money that the state already has, and wants the first cameras in place within 30 days.

Medicare numbers

About 11.5 million elderly and disabled people signed up for the new Medicare drug benefit by the May 15 enrollment deadline, bringing the number of beneficiaries with drug coverage to 38.7 million, officials said yesterday.

That leaves about 4 million to 5 million beneficiaries without coverage. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said an analysis of the enrollment numbers showed that people chose plans that charged the lowest premiums — $23 on average versus original estimates of $37.

“I’d just like to stress what good news this is for seniors and the Medicare program,” Mr. Leavitt said in announcing the enrollment numbers.

The numbers are in line with what the Bush administration projected in January 2005. At the time, it said about 43 million Medicare beneficiaries would be eligible and that about 39 million would participate.

Mr. Leavitt lowered the projections shortly after he become secretary in January 2005. He has referred to Wall Street estimates of 28 million to 30 million enrollees as reasonable, the AP reports.

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

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