- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 22, 1999

A year ago, Democrats were vowing vengeance against the men who prosecuted President Clinton in his Senate impeachment trial.
Today, that threat appears to have fallen flat only one of the 11 "House managers" who are seeking re-election faces a serious challenge. Three others may face credible opponents, while the remainder seem assured of an easy walk back to Washington.
"Impeachment was simply never going to be a prime factor in those races at any point," Democratic strategist and pollster Alan Secrest said. "The huffing and puffing you heard at the time can be put down to wishful thinking or overly emotional reactions."
"I think the Democrats committed one of the cardinal errors in politics," Republican strategist Ralph Reed said. "They telegraphed their strategy. They broadcast who they would go after and why."
Despite reports that the president himself planned revenge on his tormentors, only Rep. James E. Rogan, California Republican, faces a certain, serious challenge. State Sen. Adam Schiff is waging an aggressive and well-financed campaign to unseat the two-term incumbent in this district, which leans Democratic and which Mr. Rogan won by slim margins both times.
"If the voters of my district want to punish me for doing what I think is right, even if it is not popular, I am prepared to accept their judgment," Mr. Rogan said. "That makes life ulcer-free."
It is not entirely clear how much of a factor the impeachment trial will really be in Mr. Rogan's race. Mr. Rogan says he finds that opinion has shifted somewhat in his favor since the trial ended, so that even Democrats give him credit for making a principled stand.
Mr. Schiff, his Democratic opponent, disagrees about the opinion of voters, but agrees that the election will turn on local issues, such as a dispute over a planned airport expansion in Burbank, rather than impeachment.
"For many people [impeachment] crystallized the sense that he's more interested in the national partisan crusades of the day," rather than local issues, Mr. Schiff said.
While both men say impeachment is a side issue, both are using it in national fund-raising drives.
Two managers, according to many analysts, are likely to face credible challenges Rep. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio but it is difficult to analyze the races this far in advance. In both cases, Democrats are still facing primary battles to settle on a candidate, battles that could hurt their chances of unseating the incumbents.
Two managers Reps. Charles T. Canady and Bill McCollum, both of Florida are leaving the House. Republicans expect to hold Mr. Canady's open seat and have a reasonable chance of holding the seat of Mr. McCollum, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Connie Mack.
The only other manager who faces a clear challenge so far, therefore, is Rep. Bob Barr, Georgia Republican. Wealthy businessman Roger Kahn hopes Mr. Barr's aggressive national campaign to impeach Mr. Clinton, beginning even before the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, will make him appear mean-spirited and single-minded.
Mr. Kahn faces two primary challengers, but neither Democrat has nearly the financial resources available to Mr. Kahn.
The little-known Mr. Kahn trails Mr. Barr 51 percent to 35 percent, but a Democratic pollster reported last month that more than half of the district's voters have an unfavorable impression of Mr. Barr and only 20 percent have a clearly favorable view.
Republicans say they are not worried, given that Mr. Barr's northwestern Georgia district is highly conservative and Republican. Mr. Reed, a consultant to Mr. Barr's campaign, said Mr. Kahn will have a tough time talking openly about impeachment.
"To be seen as an apologist for Clinton and his misdeeds is a liability," he said.
And that seems to be the root of the difficulty Democrats have in challenging most of the House managers. Most managers come from Republican districts, where the president was not popular from the start.
"The fact is, we target incumbent Republicans who have a chance of being beaten, in marginal districts where we have a chance to win," said John Del Cecato, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "The fact is the impeachment managers were, by design, not Republicans in marginal districts."
Still, some opponents of impeachment are hoping to keep the issue alive.
California computer entrepreneur Joan Blades and her husband, Wes Boyd, for example, are raising money for Democratic candidates through an organization called "Move On," which grew out of an Internet petition urging Congress to censure the president and stop the impeachment process.
Mrs. Blades, who admits unseating most of the managers would be difficult, said visitors to her Web site have pledged $13.4 million to anti-impeachment candidates, including Mr. Schiff.
Impeachment "was a lengthy demonstration that my representatives were spending their time on what I saw as a political issue, rather than working on what needed to be done," said Mrs. Blades, who says she was not active in politics until impeachment. "I want them to reflect my values."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide