- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2003

The Vito vote

All we ever hear about is the importance of the Hispanic vote. What about the Italian vote?

As the nation fast approaches the 2004 election, John McLaughlin, host of TV’s long-running “The McLaughlin Group,” will moderate the National Italian American News Bureau’s upcoming panel discussion, “The Italian-American Vote: Does it Count?”

Among those weighing in at the forum next month will be Arizona’s Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano; political analyst Bill Schneider; and syndicated columnist Robert Novak, with the latter welcoming the opportunity to get asked anything besides the identities of his sources.

Horse race

The Democratic primary will come down to a battle between former Gov. Howard Dean of Vermont and Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri, with the decisive clash not over national security, but domestic policy, says New Republic editor Peter Beinart.

“Dean, who learned fiscal conservatism from his investment-banker, Republican father, embodies today’s Democratic Party better than Gephardt, the son of a Teamster from working-class St. Louis,” says Mr. Beinart. “Perhaps nothing explains the fight for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination better than that.”

Meanwhile, the International Union of Journeymen Horseshoers and Allied Trades endorsed Mr. Gephardt yesterday.

International intrigue

The U.S. government-run Foreign Press Center in Washington has assumed the role of travel agent, booking hotel rooms for foreign correspondents who wish to cover the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

One international correspondent we heard from yesterday was intrigued by “the idea of State Department-paid Foreign Press Center people serving as travel agents and making room arrangements.”

“The funny side of this is that the hotels themselves are taking advantage of this situation,” he says, “providing a block of rooms, but imposing four and five-day minimum-stay requirements, even though the New Hampshire primary is only a one-day event.”

The press center has already booked some 300 hotel rooms for the foreign scribes. Uncle Sam is now working to find additional hotel space.

Terror spokesman

Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has a new press secretary in Brian Roehrkasse, formerly the department’s deputy spokesman.

No offense, but hopefully we won’t be hearing too much from Mr. Roehrkasse in the coming years.

Playing hooky

Washington pollster and focus-group impresario Frank Luntz has left the world of partisan politics to host his own weekend TV show, “America’s Voices” on MSNBC.

But in between tapings, we could have sworn we’ve spotted the pollster seated behind home plates of not one but several ballparks across America during the recent series of championships. Sure enough, we tracked down Mr. Luntz yesterday in the back seat of a New York City taxi.

Yes, he confirmed, that was him at PacBell Park in San Francisco for Game 1 of the playoffs between the Giants and Florida Marlins.

Yes, he confirmed, that was him in Miami for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Championship Series between the Marlins and the forlorn Chicago Cubs.

Yes, he confirmed, that was him (wearing Yankee blue) at Boston’s Fenway Park for Game 3 of the Red Sox-New York Yankees game.

Yes, he confirmed, that was him Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium for Game 6, talking in the ear of former client and New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.

“What do you want to know?” he asked.

Where do you get your tickets?

For the first time ever, Mr. Luntz had nothing to say.

John McCaslin, a nationally syndicated columnist, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or [email protected]

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