- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2003

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 (UPI) — Capital Comment — Daily news notes, political rumors, and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.

Some good news for the president…

A new poll conducted last weekend by Zogby America has President George W. Bush's job performance rating jumping to 62 percent — an increase of 5 points from his 57 percent score from late January. More than two-thirds of respondents said they saw U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's presentation to the United Nations Security Council, with 72 percent saying he made a convincing case for the U.S. position.

When asked what they felt poses the greater danger to the United States, al Qaida topped the list at 32 percent followed by Iraq at 30 percent and North Korea at 18 percent. Of the numbers Zogby says, "What is interesting here is that Iraq has finally moved into a virtual tie with al Qaida as the biggest danger to the U.S. Clearly, Secretary Powell's performance caught on with those who watched or heard him." The survey was conducted Feb. 6-8 of 1,002 likely voters. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

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GOP fears fiasco in Florida…

In a state as Republican-leaning as Florida now appears to be, you might expect the GOP to be bullish about their chances of winning the U.S. Senate seat in 2004 — especially if incumbent Democrat Bob Graham chooses to run for president instead of seeking re-election. But, as the old saying goes, you can't beat somebody with nobody.

The buzz in Washington and in Sunshine State political circles is that neither of the Republicans who have thus far announced their interest in making the race is setting the world on fire. One, former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum, purports to be a conservative and was one of the House managers involved in former President Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. But McCollum was beaten badly by Democrat Bill Nelson in 2000 — losing by a 51 percent to 46 percent margin and providing little to no help to the Bush/Cheney ticket in what turned out to be an important state.

The other candidate, current U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, is a Lake Worth restaurateur possessed of an independent streak. Foley, who represents much of Palm Beach County, bucked the Bush administration on fast track and has compiled a moderate record on social issues. Foley has also served as the House GOP leadership's liaison to Hollywood — a double-edged sword in a culturally conservative state like Florida.

Foley has never been tested outside of his home district — which is decidedly not like the rest of the state. McCollum has been tested and found wanting. Some GOP politicos fear that neither man is a credible candidate statewide and are hoping that someone with proven statewide name identification, like State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher, or with strong Bush ties and an appeal to the state's Hispanics, like U.S. Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, will decide to make the race.

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To your good health…

Proving that bi-partisanship is possible in contemporary Washington, U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao will join a group of Democrat and Republican lawmakers to announce the Bush administration's push to expand access to health insurance for American workers.

Chao and the lawmakers will announce the introduction of legislation to give millions of uninsured Americans access to healthcare through what are being called Association Health Plans, which would allow national organizations and trade associations to offer plans to their members.

Scheduled to join the secretary at Tuesday's event are Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., and U.S. Reps. John Boehner, R-Ohio; Cal Dooley, D-Calif.; Ernie Fletcher, R-Ky; Sam Johnson, R-Texas; Donald Manzullo, R-Ill; and Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.

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Georgia on my mind…

Neither political party in Georgia seems able to decide on who they want to run for the U.S. Senate seat that Democrat Zell Miller is giving up in 2004.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox, the only Democrat capable of uniting the party and forestalling a bruising primary, has decided not to make the race. Among the names still in play for the Democrats are Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, state Attorney General Thurbert Baker and U.S. Reps. Sanford Bishop and Jim Marshall.

Things are not much clearer on the Republican side. U.S. Rep. Johnny Isakson, the most liberal of the Republicans in the congressional delegation, is already in the race but has failed, thus far, to unite the party behind him. U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston and Mac Collins are also said to be looking at the race — but it is looking more and more like Collins will take a pass according to some insiders.

One name that is being mentioned with increasing frequency is state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the first Republican in state history to be elected to statewide office three times. A life-long Georgian, Oxendine is a proven vote getter, having received more votes than any other statewide elected official.

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