Friday, January 3, 2003

Can’t stand still
President Bush made history in November 2002, only the third time in 35 such midterm elections that a president’s party gained House seats.
Now this same president, who doesn’t need reminding that he lost the popular vote in the 2000 presidential election, has to find the key to get himself re-elected.
Matthew Dowd, who headed up polling for the Bush campaign in 2000 and now runs the Republican National Committee’s polling operation, told Inside the Beltway in a telephone interview yesterday that the increasingly important minority vote could make or break the president in the 2004 election.
In fact, Mr. Dowd recently told the Republican Governors Association that Mr. Bush would risk losing his re-election bid by 3 million votes if he were to win the same percentage of white, black and Hispanic votes in 2004 as in 2000.
“After the 2000 election, there has been substantial growth among Hispanics, in particular and if we stay status quo, we will lose ground,” Mr. Dowd explained to us yesterday. “We just can’t stand still. We have to keep expanding the base because of the demographics not only whites and African Americans, but women and other constituencies.”
That said, Mr. Dowd is upbeat about recent Republican gains among voters, especially Hispanics.
“The GOP won 38 [percent] or 39 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2002, which is 3 or 4 points higher than in 2000,” he notes.
Another thing that bodes well for the future, Mr. Dowd says, is that Mr. Bush’s approval ratings remain strong among Americans.
“We’re on the right track for 2004,” he says.

Hill heels
When it comes to lady lawmakers, don’t expect a kinder, gentler body to take the oath of office when a new Congress convenes next week.
“The women of the 108th Congress all but demand attention a closer look, a closer scrutiny,” says Congressional Quarterly Associate Editor Martha Angle. “These are not the somberly garbed, soft-spoken widows and place-warmers of an earlier era.”
What are these women, then?
Outspoken and ambitious, she says, capturing a seat on Capitol Hill much the same way as their masculine colleagues: They won on their own.
Among the women to keep a close eye on in the 108th Congress, says CQ’s “Women in Power” special edition: Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who is emerging as a powerful partisan combatant; Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, influential centrist and bipartisan broker; Rep. Deborah Pryce, centrist Ohio Republican and confidante of House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert; and incoming House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, a powerful fund-raiser and undeterred liberal.
And, lest we forget, newly elected Sen. Elizabeth Dole, North Carolina Republican, who as reported on the front page of The Washington Times yesterday has every intention of using her Washington experience to rise near the top of the class.
Mrs. Dole happens to be the only woman to have won a Senate seat in November 2002. At the same time, there are seven newly elected congresswomen who will take the oath of office next week.

Looking ahead to the official Washington schedule next week, we see that the Volcker Commission will release its long-awaited recommendations for revitalizing the federal government.
And in how bad a shape is Uncle Sam?
Twelve years ago, the original Volcker Commission predicted the decline of federal public service. Today, what is called the National Commission on the Public Service will warn that without fundamental reform, the federal government will be unable to meet the challenges of the new century.
The Volcker Commission’s report is titled “Urgent Business for America: Revitalizing the Federal Government for the 21st Century.” And talk about an influential list of contributors.
Members of the commission include, among others, former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Paul A. Volcker, former Comptroller General Charles Bowsher, former Democratic presidential candidate and New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley, former White House Chief of Staff Kenneth M. Duberstein, former Office of Personnel Management Director Constance Horner, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber.

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