- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Aggressive campaigner

"Even many Republicans said they were surprised at how aggressive this White House was politically," the New York Times reports, pointing to President Bush's heavy travel and fund-raising schedule, especially in support of Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate.

"Part of the reason, they said, was that [Karl] Rove, the architect of Mr. Bush's victory, has a crucial political and policy role in the West Wing," reporters Richard L. Berke and Elisabeth Bumiller write.

"'Karl's being in the administration was a pretty strong signal from the beginning that there was always going to be a strong political dimension to their activities,' said Tom Cole, a former chief of staff to the Republican National Committee. 'I used to think of Ronald Reagan as the great party president. George Bush is certainly comparable. The White House political shop is more focused than any one I've seen.'

"Sen. John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, who works closely with the White House, agreed. 'I don't think anybody thought he'd come anywhere close to being as aggressive as Clinton was in traveling around the country.'

"Bill Dal Col, a Republican strategist who ran Steve Forbes' presidential campaign, said: 'In the Clinton White House, it was in your face, blatantly political. This is a more professional approach that comes off as nonpolitical, even if it is as political or more so.'"

Gore shaves

Al Gore's beard has vanished.

The former vice president said he shaved the beard he has worn since last summer in preparation for his wife's potential run for Tennessee's U.S. Senate seat, the Associated Press reports.

His first beardless public appearance came yesterday before a classroom of students at Fisk University in Nashville. "I wanted to demonstrate my support for her in case she decided to run," Mr. Gore said.

The 2000 Democratic presidential nominee shaved early Sunday, associates said. By late Sunday, Tipper Gore had announced she would not run for the Senate seat being vacated by Republican Fred Thompson.

"He was doing this as a supportive spouse and before I made the final decision, he shaved his beard," Mrs. Gore said yesterday. "I think it's really cute."

Since losing the presidency to George W. Bush, Mr. Gore has taught classes at Fisk and two other universities. He has worn the beard since a European vacation last summer, prompting speculation about its significance for any future presidential plans.

Mr. Gore said yesterday his political plans remain in limbo, and spokesman Jano Cabrera cautioned against reading too much into the cleanshaven look.

"This is not a tea leaf," Mr. Cabrera said. "Millions of American men woke up today and shaved. This does not mean they are en route to Concord, New Hampshire, to file."

Nickles and Ray

"Still looking for a beachhead of support in New Jersey, former independent counsel Robert Ray has found significant backing in the nation's capital for his nascent Senate bid," Roll Call reports.

"One day after resigning as a federal prosecutor, and therefore, becoming legally eligible to wage a political campaign against Sen. Robert Toricelli, New Jersey Democrat, Ray was ushered around the Senate on Wednesday by Minority Whip Don Nickles, Oklahoma Republican," reporter Paul Kane writes.

"Nickles said Friday that his efforts to help Ray's Senate bid should not be viewed as an official endorsement something Nickles doesn't provide in a contested primary but the whip made clear he helped recruit Ray for the race.

"'I contacted him,' Nickles said, noting that he has known Ray for several years."

Portraits of ambition

"Sen. John Edwards spent last week showing off art in his office to North Carolina newspaper reporters in an attempt to send a message home that he was serious about running for president," according to the Prowler column at www.americanprowler.org.

"At one time, Edwards had pictures of Ben Franklin and George Washington hanging on the walls. But that decor is out. Now, Edwards has the visages of Andrew Jackson, James Polk, and Andrew Johnson looking down on him. 'They are huge portraits,' says a reporter for the Charlotte Observer. 'You can't miss them and he won't let you miss the significance.'

"As Edwards will tell you, all three men hailed from North Carolina and all were elected president. Never mind that Andrew Jackson made his mark in what's now Al Gore's state, or that Polk was a one-termer, or that Johnson was impeached. As far as Edwards is concerned, they were all as good as trial lawyers. Will Edwards go a step further and hang a picture of himself on his walls? 'He's not that full of himself,' says an Edwards staffer, who adds, 'yet.'"


"For more than a year, Democrats have been trying to come up with a consistent message. But nothing seems to stick," Michael Crowley writes in the New Republic.

"Last summer, they were making headway with attacks on Bush over the Social Security and Medicare 'lockbox' until September 11 rendered that moot. Attacks on Republicans for delaying an airport-security bill and larding up the economic-stimulus plan with corporate tax cuts didn't resonate in the polls. The party pounced on the Enron scandal, hoping to use it as a magic metaphor for everything wrong with the Bush White House. But several Democrats have been splattered by the Enron story, which is fading anyway," Mr. Crowley said.

"Worst of all have been the conflicting messages about the Bush tax cut from [Senate Majority Leader Tom] Daschle, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, and Ted Kennedy which together made the party look badly confused. The party's ace in the hole was the recession, which Democrats assumed would send the president's approval numbers plummeting. But now the economy is recovering, and Democrats are again fumbling for something new to say."

Instant runoffs

San Francisco has become the first major U.S. city to adopt instant runoffs for nearly all municipal races, a move that is encouraging fringe candidates to think they actually have a chance on Election Day, the Associated Press reports.

Currently, if no candidate for a city office gets more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff is held weeks or months later between the top two vote-getters.

The new instant system would avoid this second round of balloting by allowing the voters to rank candidates as their first, second and third choice. Those preferences would be used to pick a winner.

The idea won 55 percent approval from San Francisco voters in a March 5 referendum.

Opponents have criticized it as undemocratic and confusing. Proponents have said it will open the political process to more outsiders and save money, since runoffs cost taxpayers about $1.6 million each.

'Give him a raise'

"Any White House budget director worth his mess privileges is going to get roasted in Congress. So we take it as a good sign that current director Mitch Daniels keeps getting pounded by the biggest career spenders in both parties," the Wall Street Journal says.

"'You and several others in the administration, in my view, have a severe attitude problem,' Wisconsin Democrat David Obey scolded Mr. Daniels last week. Mr. Obey is the chief Democratic appropriator in the House, and his real beef is that Mr. Daniels has shown a spotlight on the congressional spending 'earmarks,' i.e., pork projects, that have proliferated in recent years," the newspaper said in an editorial.

"We hope President Bush gives him a raise."

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