- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

Madame front-runner

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York has a definite lead among 10 Democratic hopefuls in the 2008 presidential race, according to the American Research Group, which polled 600 Democratic and independent likely voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1. Mrs. Clinton is favored by 35 percent of Iowans and 39 percent of New Hampshire respondents — compared with 18 percent and 13 percent in each state, respectively, who favored John Edwards.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois mustered 14 percent and 19 percent, “undecided” was cited by 13 percent and 21 percent, former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack 12 percent and 1 percent. The rest, including Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut and Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich of Ohio, only managed to garner the favor of between 1 percent and 2 percent of the respondents in both states, the survey found. It has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Nader raiding

Republican strategists can count on it: Democrats may strut their stuff on Capitol Hill, but still quibble among themselves. Asked his opinion of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader got crabby, indeed.

“I don’t think she has the fortitude. Actually, she’s really a panderer and a flatterer. As she goes around the country, you’ll see more of that,” Mr. Nader told CNN yesterday. “I think her main problem may well be right in New York City, [Mayor] Michael Bloomberg.”

“You like Bloomberg?” asked anchorman Wolf Blitzer.

“I’m saying he’ll give more diversity for sure, and he’ll focus on urban problems,” Mr. Nader replied, noting that he would never vote for Mrs. Clinton and is partial to Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich.

“We have got a money horse race now,” Mr. Nader said. “The press and the polls are gravitating on cash-register politics as if there’s a bar graph to see who’s going to raise the $100 million or $200 million, [Senator John] McCain or [Senator Barack] Obama or Hillary. That’s very unhealthy. That’s rancid politics.”

Still right-of-center

Sen. John McCain says it’s only Washington insiders who think his 2008 presidential bid is in trouble because he supports President Bush’s decision to send more troops to Iraq.

“I think there’s that, maybe, perception inside the Beltway. But outside, a lot of Republicans are rallying to this belief that we need to have a strategy that can win and realize the consequences of failure,” the Arizona Republican told ABC yesterday.

“Many people trust my judgment because they’ve known me for many years,” he said. “I think we’re doing just fine, and I think polls indicate that. We’re still a right-of-center party. This nation is still a right-of-center nation. And I believe the Democrats are the left-of-center party. So, do we need to make significant adjustments, learn the lessons of the 2006 election? Absolutely.”

The ‘owe’ factor

“A key supporter of Sen. Barack Obama urged united African-American support for his presidential bid, questioning whether black Democrats still ‘owe’ Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton their support,” wrote Ben Smith of the Politico.com yesterday.

The comments were made by Illinois state Senate President Emil Jones during the Democratic National Committee’s black caucus at the Washington Hilton this weekend and “angered Clinton backers and deepened a sharp rift among African-American political activists,” according to Mr. Smith.

Mr. Jones asked his audience, “How long are you going to owe politicians for past favors?” and later implored the black officials and operatives not to act like “crabs in a barrel and drag down a successful member of their community.”

Jamal Simmons, a political consultant, told Politico, “The heated response that followed highlighted the difficult, personal choice facing many black Democrats. The one thing that was extraordinarily clear this weekend is that many African-American political operatives are very conflicted internally about whether to support Obama or Clinton.”

Snow no-show

American Spectator senior editor Quin Hillyer thinks Tony Snow should consider a run for the U.S. Senate. Yes, that Tony Snow, White House spokesman.

“Conservatives have been desperately searching for a champion who knows how to communicate, how to engage and inspire the public, ever since Ronald Reagan left the scene. What has been missing in the interim is not merely some acquired skill or a trick of communicating, but a communications talent that is married to a genuine, heartfelt, long-developed set of beliefs. It’s the marriage of communication with philosophy that is needed; one without the other won’t do. Snow is clearly genuine,” Mr. Hillyer wrote in a Jan. 31 column.

“Is this, then, an endorsement of Tony Snow for president in 2008? Not exactly. But it is a suggestion that Snow has a great deal of the ‘right stuff’ for which conservatives have been looking, perhaps enough of the right stuff to make the idea worth pondering for 2012 or even 2016 (he’s only 51 right now).

“If Snow can’t exactly pull off a race for president in 2008, there is another public office he ought to consider. Virginia’s senior U.S. Sen. John W. Warner will be just shy of 82 when the next election rolls around.”

The notion piqued the interest of U.S. News & World Report’s Paul Bedard, who went right to the source yesterday, asking Mr. Snow if he intended to pursue office.

“I am absolutely Shermanesque,” came the reply. “After this job, the best I am likely ever to have, I’m going to do something that will enable me to spend much more time with the family.”

Tough choices

Retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor left the Supreme Court because of her ailing husband, not because she was ready to retire, according to Newsweek. She had once planned to follow the tradition of previous justices, who work until they drop, essentially.

“Most of them get ill and are really in bad shape, which I would’ve done at the end of the day myself, I suppose, except my husband was ill and I needed to take action,” she said.

Mrs. O’Connor, 76, currently divides her time between Washington and Arizona, where she cares for her husband, John, who has Alzheimer’s and now resides in a Phoenix care center. She still has an office at the Supreme Court, still draws a salary and fills in as a federal judge. She also recently served on the 10-member bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

“I wasn’t sure I should do it. It was so out of my field of judging. I don’t know anything about the military,” Mrs. O’Connor said, though she wouldn’t weigh in on President Bush’s rejection of the group’s suggestions for a gradual withdrawal of troops.

“There are probably no perfect answers,” she said.

Contact Jennifer Harper at jharper@washingtontimes.com or 202/636-3085.

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