- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Memo to all the Johns, Dicks and Howies running for president: Watch out, because Mark Plotkin is watching you.
Mr. Plotkin, the always-breathless pundit who has made a career of keeping D.C. politicians on their toes, has set his sights on the men vying for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, including John F. Kerry, Richard A. Gephardt and Howard Dean.
He sizes each candidate up on "The Run for the Nomination," a new series of reports that airs Saturdays at 12:50, 1:50, 2:50 and 3:50 p.m. on all-news station WTOP (1500 AM and 107.7 FM).
But wait a minute. Isn't Mr. Plotkin the fellow who lives and breathes municipal D.C. politics? The guy who gets nervous when he ventures into the suburbs?
"I'm branching out. I love D.C., but I know national politics, too," said Mr. Plotkin, a Chicago native who cut his teeth working on the Muskie, McCarthy and McGovern presidential campaigns in the 1970s.
"The Run for the Nomination" represents WTOP's latest effort to brand itself as a source for both national and local news. The station relies on CBS Radio for some of its national reports, but it also has its own reporters on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon.
"The Run" also gives WTOP another showcase for Mr. Plotkin, who joined the station last spring after 10 years at rival WAMU-FM (88.5).
"Quite frankly, I was pigeonholed at WAMU. I was typecast [as a D.C. political commentator]," Mr. Plotkin said.
At WTOP, Mr. Plotkin comments on all things political, including the intrigue in the Maryland and Virginia statehouses.
He even plans to invite the presidential candidates onto WTOP's "Politics Program with Mark Plotkin," the Friday morning grillfest previously reserved for D.C. politicians. Howard Dean, whose tenure as Vermont governor ends tomorrow, has already accepted the invitation.
Heaven help him.
Mr. Plotkin is perhaps the toughest interviewer this side of Tim Russert. No one is better at nailing politicians down on sticky positions, especially when it comes to Mr. Plotkin's passionate campaign to promote his adopted hometown.
He led the effort to restore the Wilson Building as the District's City Hall, and he had a hand in getting the "Taxation Without Representation" slogan on D.C. license plates.
"If nothing else, I want to get [the Democratic presidential candidates'] views on statehood for D.C., autonomy from the federal government, full voting rights. This is the most solidly Democratic jurisdiction in the nation. You can't take it for granted," he said.
This just in
Another era has ended at Broadcast House: WUSA-TV (Channel 9) and Mike Lewis, its chief announcer of the last 20 years, have parted ways. The Bethesda-based Mr. Lewis, whose booming bass introduces WUSA's newscasts, said he'll focus on other voice work. Charlie Van Dyke is expected to replace him.
Dan Henry, a weatherman at ABC affiliate WJLA-TV (Channel 7) since April 1997, is joining Fox's Dallas affiliate as chief meteorologist.
Is the "George Michael Sports Machine" sputtering? "Sports Plus," Steve Davis' new late Sunday show on WUSA, beat "Sports Machine" on WRC-TV (Channel 4) for the first time last week. Mr. Davis drew 84,500 viewers, while Mr. Michael drew about 49,800.
Willie Waffle, the WMAL-AM (630) marketing chief who also doubles as the talk station's movie critic, has written a book, "Back Shelf Beauties: Movies You Should Rent When the New Stuff is Gone."
Questions? Comments? Tips? Call Chris Baker at 202/636-3139 or send an e-mail to cbaker@washingtontimes.com.

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