- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Dean’s performance

“Howard Dean won Tuesday’s debate of Democratic presidential candidates in Iowa. Wesley Clark came in second,” Des Moines Register political columnist David Yepsen writes.

“Dean went into the two-hour gabfest with a new poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers showing he has retaken the lead in Iowa over Richard Gephardt, who has slipped back into second place while John Kerry occupies third. Front-runners become pincushions in debates, and Dean handled the poking well, by staying above the fray and by not responding to every jab Kerry or Gephardt sought to administer.” Mr. Yepsen said.

“When he did, it was with respect and courtesy, a sign that Dean has calculated he might just win the Democratic presidential nomination and will someday need the enthusiastic support from those on stage with him, not their bitterness. …

“Going into the forum, Dean’s campaign was bolstered by a new WHO-TV poll showing he’s opened up a 10-point lead over Gephardt. Dean is getting support from 32 percent of likely caucus-goers. Gephardt gets 22 percent.”

Mr. Yepsen added: “Clark delivered a strong performance. The former general was forceful and sharp, as if he’s finally found his stride after, as he admitted Tuesday, he ‘bobbled’ at the start of his campaign.”

Florida poll

President Bush leads all of his potential Democratic rivals by at least 20 percentage points in Florida, according to a poll released earlier this week.

The Mason-Dixon Florida poll found that the state’s voters trust President Bush more than any of his Democratic rivals to run the war in Iraq and restore the economy.

The first Mason-Dixon poll taken since Florida Sen. Bob Graham dropped out of the presidential contest also showed a close race in the nine-Democrat field, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman had 21 percent support, but former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean was gaining on him at 17 percent.

Brad Coker, director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc., said Mr. Bush’s 54 percent approval on conduct of the war and 52 percent voter confidence on the economy mean “it will be very difficult for the Democrats to win in Florida” next year.

No recall in Nevada

An antitax group trying to oust Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn gave up Monday after failing to gather enough signatures to get the recall on the ballot.

The recent recall of former California Gov. Gray Davis “really crucified us,” said Chris Hansen of the Committee to Recall Gov. Guinn. “That was such a circus, such a show, with a stripper, a porn star, Gary Coleman as candidates.”

The Republican governor said the effort failed “because the vast majority of Nevadans support me and the efforts I have made to make Nevada a better place.”

The recall drive was begun in response to Mr. Guinn’s proposal for more than $1 billion in new and increased taxes. After a divisive legislative session that stretched into two special sessions, Mr. Guinn signed into law a record $833.5 million tax package.

Mr. Hansen said more than 51,000 signatures were gathered — far short of the 128,109 needed to force a vote next year.

Kerry’s wife

The wife of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry says that suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be given prisoner of war status.

“They were captured while fighting a war,” Teresa Heinz Kerry said Monday at an informal discussion with minority activists in Seattle. “They should have the rights that other prisoners of war have had.”

Mrs. Heinz Kerry, heir to the Heinz family’s food fortune, said denying the detainees the protections of the Geneva Convention is “insulting, ignorant and insensitive” to the rest of the world.

She added that under President Bush, the United States, once known as the standard-bearer for human rights, is now considered a hypocrite.

Judicial mandate

A judge has ordered the state of Illinois to pay cost-of-living salary increases for about 900 judges and ruled that Democratic Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s veto of funding for the raises was illegal.

Mr. Blagojevich’s aides immediately said the administration will appeal.

Cook County Judge John Madden ordered the state to pay judges a 2.8 percent cost-of-living increase, which has been due since July and is estimated to cost $3.7 million.

In siding with two judges who sued the governor over the veto, Judge Madden ruled that a cost-of-living increase is a basic part of judicial salaries and that the state constitution says judges’ salaries should “not be diminished” while they are in office.

Spending spree

“The latest news out of Congress is that in order to pass their spendthrift energy and Medicare bills, the Republican leadership is resorting to — still more spending, especially sweetheart projects for members. Does anyone else notice a theme here?” the Wall Street Journal asks in an editorial.

“Elected in 1994 as the party of limited government, Republicans seem to have abandoned any effort to limit spending. Worse, the current Republican president has shown no inclination to control it either. At the current pace, Howard Dean may yet find a political opening next year to run as a ‘fiscal conservative.’” the newspaper said.

“Notice we aren’t complaining here about the ‘deficit,’ which is usually used as an excuse to raise taxes. The Bush tax cuts are already helping to promote faster economic growth that should shrink the deficit in future years. The thing to worry about is actual spending, because federal outlays will have to be financed somehow. By failing to restrain spending now, Republicans are increasing the political pressure they will face to raise taxes in the future.”

Cleland vs. Dean

Former Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat and disabled Vietnam veteran, apparently is no fan of Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean.

“We cannot afford to have a leader who weaseled out of going to Vietnam on a medical deferment for a bad back and wound up on the ski slopes of Aspen like Howard Dean,” Mr. Cleland says.

Father knows best

Nick Clooney, a 69-year-old television host and columnist for the Cincinnati Post, hopes his son, actor George Clooney, will help dear old dad win a U.S. House seat from Kentucky next year.

“I certainly hope my son will contribute the $2,000 allowed,” said Mr. Clooney, a Democrat.

Ken Lucas, Kentucky’s only Democratic congressman, has announced he will not seek re-election. Mr. Lucas says he will support Mr. Clooney, who is also a brother of the late singer Rosemary Clooney.

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

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