- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

Some Senate Democrats are getting caught between President Bush and their party leaders on the issue of tax cuts as they campaign for re-election in states that Mr. Bush won easily in 2000.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, is kicking off his re-election campaign with ads promoting his vote for the administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut. It's the same tax relief that Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle blames for making the recession worse.
A Baucus radio advertisement emphasizes that he is "the chairman who reached across party lines to pass one of the most important tax cuts in history, working with President Bush." The announcer says Mr. Baucus "knows what it takes to get our economy moving again."
Mr. Bush won Montana with 58 percent of the vote in November 2000.
In neighboring South Dakota home to Mr. Daschle Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson also is trying to walk a fine line between embracing a popular wartime president and not outwardly bucking his party leadership.
Mr. Johnson voted for the Bush income-tax cut and ran radio ads last summer taking credit for rebate checks. But Mr. Johnson finds himself the target of new Republican campaign ads criticizing his vote on Feb. 6 against the president's economic-stimulus plan.
That proposal included speeding up tax relief for middle-class taxpayers.
"Tim Johnson voted against President Bush's plan to cut taxes on middle-class Americans," the Republican ad declares, in part. "Tell him to start supporting our values."
Democrats are responding with another ad arguing that Mr. Johnson does support the Republican president on many issues.
"Tim Johnson has strongly supported President Bush, the war against terrorism, his tax cut, and his education reforms," the Democratic ad states.
Asked if the tax-cut issue is creating a rift between Democratic incumbents and Mr. Daschle, spokesman Robert Gibbs of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) replied, "Clearly, each of these individual campaigns has to make their own decisions."
The races in Montana and South Dakota are among several whose outcome will determine control of the Senate, which currently has 50 Democrats, 49 Republicans and one Democrat-leaning independent.
Mr. Bush won South Dakota in 2000 by 22 percentage points, and internal Republican polling has shown Republican Rep. John Thune leading Mr. Johnson.
The Democratic Party aired a television ad in South Dakota recently that showed Mr. Bush hugging Mr. Daschle while Mr. Johnson declared, "Now is the time for all Americans to support our men and women in uniform and our president's efforts to fight terrorism."
But the latest Republican advertisement, funded by the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), tells viewers that Mr. Johnson has cast votes against the B-2 bomber and a national missile-defense system.
"When the rhetoric doesn't live up to the reality in Washington … we're going to point that out," said NRSC spokesman Dan Allen. "They're trying to paint him as somebody who supported the president on a host of issues. That's why we're responding to this."
Mr. Gibbs of the DSCC said the latest Republican ads are "nothing but more nasty personal attacks, inappropriate at a time when our nation is pulling together and working in a bipartisan manner."
"Time after time, Tim Johnson has worked with the president on issues like the war on terrorism, his tax cut and his education-reform proposals," Mr. Gibbs said.


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