- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

PALM BEACH, Fla. The White House and Senate Republicans are handling Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell's Louisiana runoff election on December 7 against Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu as if control of the Senate hung in the balance.
"It's going to be a war down there in Louisiana," Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority whip, said in an interview during Restoration Weekend, an annual meeting of several hundred conservative activists.
National Republican sources said they will spend whatever money is needed to help Mrs. Terrell win. President Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney will campaign in Louisiana. Top staff from the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee are already in the state working to elect Mrs. Terrell.
The Nov. 5 elections gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the Senate, but left the contest in Louisiana undecided. Under the state's election laws, if no candidate in an open primary on that day gets a majority, then the two top vote-getters face each other in the December runoff election. Mrs. Landrieu got 46 percent of the vote on election night.
A victory in Louisiana would boost the Republican margin to two seats, but it would also translate into conditions favorable to the GOP in some other important ways, Mr. McConnell said.
A Terrell win would help diminish the ability of liberal Republicans such as Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee to ally with Democrats to water down Mr. Bush's conservative legislative agenda.
"You've got a committee that has, for example, a moderate Republican on it," Mr. McConnell said. "A one-seat majority makes it less possible than a two-seat majority for us to get a conservative tilt on a bill.
"Philosophically, my preference is to always try to get a conservative result, if that's possible," Mr. McConnell said. "On the other hand, when you don't have the votes, you can't always achieve that."
One reason Republicans can't always get what they want, even when in the majority, is that liberals like Mr. Chafee often vote with Democrats, thus earning the tag of "RINOs Republicans in name only."
Sen. Jim Bunning, Kentucky Republican, expressed conservative frustration with the problem when, at one point in an interview, he said: "I would rather Chafee switch now, if he's going to do it, rather than worry about him later. If we win the Landrieu seat, then Chafee's never going to switch. He would switch to the minority? Come on."
Senior Republican officials representing their party's national committees watched yesterday's Landrieu-Terrell debate on NBC's "Meet the Press" and concluded that Mrs. Terrell did what she needed to do. The officials said Mrs. Terrell, the state elections commissioner, sounded as much in command of national and Louisiana issues as Mrs. Landrieu but she appeared more conservative on social issues such as abortion in one of the most pro-life states in the nation.
During a luncheon speech here at Restoration Weekend, Mr. McConnell warned Senate Democrats not to use the filibuster to block Mr. Bush's judicial nominees, as some have threatened. There would be a price to pay for violating Senate tradition, he said.
Mr. Bunning agreed, saying, "For the first time in U.S. history, we are going to have judges filibustered on the floor of the U.S. Senate. That puts the onus back on [incoming Senate Minority Leader] Tom Daschle and the obstructionist Democrats, who just lost control of the Senate by being obstructionist."
Democratic senators who lost re-election were pounded by their Republican challengers for holding up passage of Mr. Bush's homeland security bill. Some chastened Democratic survivors, including Mrs. Landrieu, are expected to vote for it when it comes to the Senate floor this week.
Like other Southern Democrats, Mrs. Landrieu may be pushed rightward by the strong Republican showing in Georgia and other states Nov. 5.
"There are Democratic senators in the South who may be rethinking the idea that it's better to vote with Tom Daschle than with George W. Bush," Mr. McConnell said.
Asked whether, from a Republican viewpoint, it might be wise to delay a vote on the homeland security bill until after the Louisiana runoff, Mr. McConnell said no.
"We don't need to delay on homeland security, because the president is going to get it his way anyway," he said. "Landrieu can't erase from the record the votes she cast in September and October against the president's position on homeland security, even if next week she decides to flip and vote for it. We can still use it against her."


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