- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Sending a message

“Two primaries next week will tell a lot about the strength of the hard-left wing of the Democratic party,” John Fund writes at www.OpinionJournal.com.

“In Connecticut, moderate Sen. Joe Lieberman faces a challenger whose single issue is opposition to the Iraq war. In Georgia, ultraliberal Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney faces a runoff against a moderate opponent who is wooing liberals with the slogan: ‘It’s time to restore respect to progressivism.’ Despite all the hype about the power of the liberal blogosphere, the odds are better than even that voters will reject the more liberal candidate in both races and send the message that the sensible center still has a home among Democrats,” Mr. Fund said.

“Conventional wisdom has it that Sen. Joe Lieberman will lose his Aug. 8 primary. A mid-July Quinnipiac poll showed businessman Ned Lamont leading the three-term incumbent by 51 percent to 47 percent among likely primary voters. Democratic consultant Bob Shrum thinks the race is over and that Mr. Lamont can even defeat Mr. Lieberman should the senator run as an independent. He says a Lamont primary victory will ensure that ‘we’ll see by the end of 2007 virtually every Democratic [presidential] candidate, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, favoring a date certain for withdrawal’ from Iraq.

“Not so fast. First, Mr. Lamont’s lead is within the Quinnipiac poll’s 4-point margin of error. Secondly, it’s notoriously difficult to identify likely voters for a low-turnout primary in the dog days of August. Third, there are signs that Mr. Lamont may have ‘peaked too soon’ in his challenge to the incumbent. He is now facing increased scrutiny on the thinness of his political resume, his unfamiliarity with many issues and his refusal to release his tax returns. At the same time, Mr. Lieberman’s campaign is showing signs of renewed vigor.”

As for Mrs. McKinney, “Incumbents who score below 50 percent in an initial primary seldom recover to win the runoff,” Mr. Fund said. “That is likely to be Ms. McKinney’s fate.” A new poll shows opponent Hank Johnson, a former DeKalb County commissioner, leading by 25 percentage points, Mr. Fund said.

Bipartisan cash

The effort to defeat Rep. Cynthia A. McKinney, Georgia Democrat, in next week’s primary runoff is drawing bipartisan financial support, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

“Democrat Roy Barnes and Republican Guy Millner waged a bitter contest for governor in 1998, but they’re now on the same team: backing Hank Johnson’s bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney.

“Barnes — who won that election — and Millner are among 40 donors from both political parties who have contributed at least $1,000 each to Johnson since he forced McKinney into a runoff in the July 18 Democratic primary. …

“McKinney, meanwhile, has reported no donations of $1,000 since the primary. Federal law says contributions of that amount or larger, if received within 20 days of an election, must be publicly reported by candidates within two days.”

Before the primary, in which she got 47 percent of the vote to Mr. Johnson’s 45 percent, Mrs. McKinney had “raised much of her money from out of state, with unions, Muslims — including A.S. Nakadar, founder of the Muslim Media Network, and Faroque Khan, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island — and liberal activists making up a large part of her donor pool,” the newspaper reported.

Among Mrs. McKinney’s donors was Afeni Shakur, mother of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who gave $2,300. Last year, Mrs. McKinney proposed a House resolution calling for “expeditious disclosure of [federal] records relevant to the life and death” of the rapper, who was fatally shot in Las Vegas in 1996.

Prodding Harris

The Florida Republican Party bluntly told Rep. Katherine Harris that she couldn’t win this fall’s Senate election and that the party wouldn’t support her campaign, a letter obtained yesterday by the Associated Press shows.

Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan made a last-ditch attempt in the confidential May 7 letter to force Mrs. Harris out of the race for the nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. But the next day, Mrs. Harris turned in paperwork to get her name on the Sept. 5 Republican primary ballot.

The letter came as Gov. Jeb Bush was trying to get state House Speaker Allan G. Bense into the race. Mr. Bense later announced that he would not enter the race.

Mrs. Harris rose to national prominence as Florida’s secretary of state during the bitter presidential election recount in 2000 that gave the White House to George Bush. She was elected to the U.S. House in 2002.

“Katherine, though it causes us much anguish, we have determined that your campaign faces irreparable damage,” the letter said. “We feel that we have no other choice but to revoke our support.”

“The polls tell us that no matter how you run this race, you will not be successful in beating Bill Nelson, who would otherwise be a vulnerable incumbent if forced to face a stronger candidate,” it said.

Word play

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has apologized for referring to the troubled Big Dig construction project as a “tar baby” during a fundraiser with Iowa Republicans, saying he didn’t know anyone would be offended by the term.

In a speech Saturday, Mr. Romney, a Republican considering a run for president in 2008, acknowledged he took a big political risk in assuming control of the project after a fatal tunnel ceiling collapse but said inaction would have been worse.

“The best thing politically would be to stay as far away from that tar baby as I can,” he told a crowd of about 100 supporters in Ames, Iowa.

The term originated with Atlanta author Joel Chandler Harris’ 19th-century “Uncle Remus” stories, referring to a doll made of tar that traps Br’er Rabbit. It has come to be known as a way of describing a sticky mess, but it also has been used as a derogatory term for a black person, according to the Associated Press.

Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor “was unaware that some people find the term objectionable, and he’s sorry if anyone’s offended.”

GOP appeals

Texas Republicans yesterday asked a federal appeals court in New Orleans to let them replace former Rep. Tom DeLay on the November congressional ballot, but Democrats argued that Texas law requires keeping Mr. DeLay as the Republican candidate.

Mr. DeLay won a March primary before resigning from Congress in June.

Barring catastrophic illness or other extreme circumstance, there is no legal way to replace Mr. DeLay, Democratic Party attorney Chadd Dunn told a three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals..

James Bopp, arguing for Texas Republican officials, said the party should choose the candidate, the Associated Press reports.

Republicans want to honor Mr. DeLay’s June 9 resignation and pick another nominee to face Democrat Nick Lampson in November.

A federal judge ruled in early July that Mr. DeLay’s name had to stay on the ballot even though he quit Congress and moved to Virginia.

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

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