- The Washington Times - Friday, July 19, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Top Republican Party officials from the 50 states gathered here yesterday to coordinate a counterattack on Democratic attempts to exploit the corporate accounting scandals and stock market slump.
"This all took place in the 1990s, when Bill Clinton was president, and it's all about greed and corruption and has nothing to do with the Republican Party and Republican candidates," said Marty Ryall, Arkansas Republican chairman. "It's something that has to be dealt with, and President Bush is doing that."
That's the Republican line, and they're sticking with it.
"Trying to put all that on President Bush is like trying to act like the AIDS crisis is Bush's fault," said Cindy Costa, a Republican National Committee member from South Carolina. "You counter this by saying the corporate lying doesn't have anything to do with Bush or Republicans but everything to do with the lying for self-gain that has become a part of the culture in America today."
She said studies for the last two years show that more than 50 percent of college students admit to cheating on their exams.
Other Republican leaders remained publicly upbeat yesterday but privately expressed concerns about the effects of Wall Street's woes on Republican prospects for retaking the Senate, enlarging their slim House majority and limiting losses of governorships. The party's share of governorships has dropped from a high of 33 to a current 29, and analysts predict a further decline this year.
"A Democrat official told me this morning that they figure for every 100 points the stock market drops between now and November, they'll pick up four [House] seats," a Republican operative said.
Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot was preparing a speech for today that will denounce "hypocritical" attempts by Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to exploit recent economic turmoil, party sources said.
Republican leaders had been relying on Mr. Bush's popularity and high job-approval rating among voters, the national unity spawned by September 11 and economic recovery to avoid losses that the party holding the White House historically suffers in the midterm elections.
But state party chairmen and elected members of the 165-member Republican National Committee, gathered here for their annual summer meeting, said privately that Democrats have several issues to use against Republicans, including and some said especially the Republicans' longtime image as the party of big business.
"We did it to ourselves," a party chairman from an Eastern state said bitterly in a confidential conversation with other Republican officials. He was referring to the party's nomination in 2000 of two men associated with businesses whose past practices came under scrutiny Mr. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney.
Both the president's role at Harken Energy and the vice president's role at Halliburton have been the focus of scandal-hunting Democrats and reporters.
A New York Times poll released yesterday reported that 42 percent of Americans think Mr. Bush is more interested in protecting the interests of ordinary Americans but an equal percentage said he was more interested in protecting large corporations.


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