- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

Cleland’s new gig

Former Sen. Max Cleland, Georgia Democrat, has been nominated by President Bush to serve a four-year term on the board of the Export-Import Bank, and will have to leave the commission investigating the September 11 terror attacks.

The statutes governing the panel, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, bar anyone who holds a federal job such as being on the Ex-Im Board, from being a member, Shaun Waterman of United Press International reports.

Mr. Cleland has been one of the more outspoken members of the commission, accusing the administration of delaying access to vital documents in an effort to run out the clock on its investigation. The panel, which started work at the beginning of the year, must submit its report by a congressionally mandated deadline of May 27, 2004.

Commission spokesman Al Felzenberg told UPI that Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, would nominate Mr. Cleland’s replacement.

Whoever is chosen will need to get up to speed very quickly on the commission’s work — which is already more than half-completed. But they will not be able to start reviewing the millions of pages of classified documents the commission has received until they get security clearance — a process that can take several weeks.

Internet vote OK’d

The Michigan Democratic Party’s plan to allow Internet voting in its presidential caucus won approval Saturday from national Democrats.

For the first time, the Michigan party will allow those participating in the Feb. 7 caucus to have the option of selecting their favorite presidential candidate over the Internet, in addition to voting by mail or in person.

Twenty Michigan voters objected to the state party’s plan, saying it would disadvantage poor and minority voters and be subject to fraud.

The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee rejected the argument on a 23-2 vote, the Associated Press reports.

Internet voting could benefit former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who has built significant support among Web users. A poll taken in Michigan last month shows Mr. Dean with a slight lead among likely caucus-goers, but his support jumps significantly among those who plan to vote by Internet.

Seven of Mr. Dean’s rivals encouraged party leaders to reject Michigan’s plan, citing the disparity in computer ownership among whites and minorities. The only candidate other than Mr. Dean who did not object was Wesley Clark. He supports Internet voting as a way to increase turnout and improve democracy.

Still in front

President Bush would defeat any of the Democratic presidential hopefuls if the election were held today, according to a new Time/CNN opinion poll.

Mr. Bush would top retired Gen. Wesley Clark, 49 percent to 42 percent, the survey found.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry would lose 49 percent to 41 percent.

Mr. Bush would win 52 percent to 39 percent against former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, according to the poll, which was released late Friday.

The survey also showed Mr. Dean continues to lead the nine-candidate pack of Democrats in the fight for their party’s nomination with 14 percent of the Democratic vote.

He is closely followed by Mr. Clark with 12 percent support, Mr. Lieberman at 11 percent, Mr. Kerry at 9 percent, Mr. Gephardt at 6 percent, and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and the Rev. Al Sharpton with 5 percent each.

The survey of 1,300 registered voters had a margin of error of 2.7 percentage points.

A shrinking debate

John Kerry plans to be a no-show at the Democratic presidential debate in Iowa today.

While campaigning in New Hampshire on Saturday, Mr. Kerry announced that he would be returning to Washington to filibuster the Medicare bill.

Mr. Kerry called the legislation “a boondoggle for the pharmaceutical industry and a raw deal” for the nation’s elderly.

“That is why I am going to join Senator Ted Kennedy to lead the filibuster of this legislation,” said Mr. Kerry. “Unfortunately, that means I will miss the debate in Iowa. But I think the people of Iowa will understand that potential harm of this bill is worth the effort.”

A spokeswoman for Sen. John Edwards, North Carolina Democrat, said he, too, would be leaving Iowa to return to Washington to fight the bill. “We hope we won’t have to miss the debate, but we may have to,” said spokeswoman Jennifer Palmieri.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman had decided earlier this month to pull out of the debate in Des Moines to spend the day campaigning in New Hampshire. His campaign announced Saturday that Mr. Lieberman will be in Washington instead.

Help from his friends

Howard Dean touted his union endorsements Saturday as he tried to solidify support in Michigan ahead of the state’s Feb. 7 caucuses.

“People used to say my campaign didn’t have much diversity. Well, here we all are — green and purple and black and yellow,” he said in Detroit to a crowded auditorium of supporters in decked out in union T-shirts.

Many of those in the audience and sharing the stage with him were black, and the rally in Detroit featured Motown music and the singing of the Service Employees International Union Local 79 choir, the Associated Press reports.

Union leaders from SEIU, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades promoted Mr. Dean’s agenda and bashed the Bush administration.

The three unions, which have at least 100,000 members in Michigan and more than 3.1 million nationally, have endorsed Mr. Dean.

“I work with families every day who don’t have enough money to pay their health bills, and Doctor Dean is going to change that,” said Ziggy Mersha, a Head Start worker in Saginaw and a member of SEIU Local 517M. He led workers in a chant of “Push Bush out the door, elect Dean 2004.”

Pollsters everywhere

Pollsters were in every corner on Thursday night at the Georgetown home of Gloria Dittus, including several who were working for rival Democratic presidential candidates.

Miss Dittus, head of Dittus Communications, and Roll Call sponsored the opportunity to “Mingle with the Pollsters.” On hand were Brian Tringali of the Tarrance Group; Thom Riehle and Brian Scanlin of Ipsos-Public Affairs; Mark Mellman, Doug Usher and Michael Bloomfield of the Mellman Group; Kellyanne Conway of the Polling Co.; Daniel Gotoff of Lake Snell Perry & Associates; Mark Penn and Allan Fleishman of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates; Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies; and Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or gpierce@washingtontimes.com.

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