- The Washington Times - Monday, April 18, 2005

Cash competition

The Republican National Committee raised a record $32.3 million from January through March, more than double the Democrats’ total.

The RNC finished March with $26.2 million on hand, Chairman Ken Mehlman said yesterday. The money it collected in the first quarter tops its fundraising during the same period in 2001 and 2002, before the national party committees were banned from collecting corporate and unlimited donations. It also exceeds its fundraising in early 2003, the first year the parties were limited to contributions from individuals and political action committees.

The Democratic National Committee raised $13.8 million in the first quarter. That includes at least $1 million a week since former Vermont governor and presidential hopeful Howard Dean took over as chairman in mid-February.

The DNC views it as a strong start for the year, said spokeswoman Laura Gross.

“We know we’re headed in the right direction,” she said. “We’re going to keep working hard.”

Rather than stockpiling the money to spend when the fall 2006 elections near, the RNC is starting to tap it now for campaign efforts.

“One of my lessons from the 2004 election is that voter registration and grass-roots building needs to be year-round, permanent,” Mr. Mehlman said in a phone interview with the Associated Press from Atlanta, where he was raising money. That means, he said, that where the GOP is likely to have competitive races in ‘06, the RNC is working with state parties to build grass-roots support and register voters “to make sure we have the grass roots we need to be successful next year.”

Evaluating Hillary

“Pollster Scott Rasmussen has begun publishing a regular ‘Hillary Meter,’ Jay Cost writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“The purpose of this is to track Sen. Hillary Clinton’s movement to the political center by determining how much of the American public considers her to be middle-of-the-road. I find this to be a fascinating story, because it says quite a bit about Hillary and her political skills — or lack thereof,” said Mr. Cost, a graduate student at the University of Chicago who writes for RedState.org, where his article first appeared.

“It is, of course, gospel that Hillary Clinton is a political genius, or something to that effect. She is so brilliant that potential Democratic opponents are warned by pundits everywhere that she will work her secret devil arts on the poor fool who dares cross her. She is that good. Ostensibly, the only hope that humble conservatives have to keep her from being the first female president is some tawdry book by Ed Klein.

“I have never understood this. Where do her political credentials come from? It seems to me that she was a great supporting player to a good (though highly overrated) politician. She played the part of the forgiving, intelligent, driven wife with great effectiveness. When she takes center stage, however, the results are quite mixed.

“She botched health-care reform so badly that President Clinton got absolutely nothing from a Democratic Congress. She coined the term ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ — guaranteeing that conservatives everywhere would curse her existence until the end of time. She did win that New York Senate seat, but that, to my mind, was pretty unimpressive. She beat latecomer Rick Lazio, who was not a formidable candidate, to say the least (the word ‘sophomoric’ comes to mind).

“If her political accomplishments are unimpressive, why is she so feared? Why is she seen to be a political genius? The answer to this question eluded me for a long time, perhaps because it is so simple. The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician.”

Dean’s attack

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, who has accused congressional Republicans of “grandstanding” in the Terri Schiavo case, said his party will use it against the GOP in coming elections.

“This is going to be an issue in 2006, and it’s going to be an issue in 2008 because we’re going to have an ad with a picture of [House Majority Leader] Tom DeLay saying, ‘Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?’” Mr. Dean said in West Hollywood, Calif.

Mr. Dean, answering questions at an Access Now for Gay and Lesbian Equality event on Friday, went on to say: “The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy, where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?’”

The top mayors

Of the 29 largest U.S. cities, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley emerged as the best municipal leader in a Time magazine study published yesterday.

The magazine consulted with urban experts to compile the list of mayors from cities with more than 500,000 people. The list included six Republicans, 22 Democrats and one unaffiliated mayor, United Press International reports.

Following Mr. Daley was Shirley Franklin of Atlanta, the first black woman ever to run a big Southern city. Next was John Hickenlooper of Denver, who still has 75 percent job-approval ratings after 19 months on the job.

Fourth was Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, who was first elected six years ago and re-elected last year with 87 percent of the vote.

New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, 63, rounded out the top five for trimming a $6 billion budget deficit in a little more than three years.

The bottom three mayors were reported as Dick Murphy of San Diego, Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit and John Street of Philadelphia. All three are grappling with various versions of deficits and charges of corruption in their administrations, the magazine said.

Pass receiver

“The Pittsburgh Steelers’ No. 88, Hall of Famer Lynn Swann, is thinking about using his ability to snatch the ball out of the air to grab the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor in 2006,” Paul Bedard writes in the Washington Whispers column of U.S. News & World Report.

“Allies and backers say he could give Gov. Ed Rendell a good run. A win would put a conservative African-American in charge of the state Democrats say is critical to winning back the White House,” Mr. Bedard reports.

“Is Swann serious? Not only has he created Team 88 to promote his cause and collect checks, but he’s headed to Washington this week for a meet-and-greeter.”

Greg Pierce can be reached at 202/636-3285 or [email protected].

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