- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Jeb’s future

Don’t underestimate Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s prospects as a future presidential contender, says former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Probably 2008 is a little bit tricky, but “‘12 or ‘16 isn’t. And he’s a young enough guy that he has a great future,” Mr. Gingrich said on a Florida television station.

“I just think his natural, personal ability is so great that people are going to realize he is not his father, and he’s not his brother. He’s a very unique, charismatic leader with extraordinary capabilities. … Jeb Bush may well be the most innovative [governor] in the entire country.”

Which potential Democratic presidential candidate most worries Mr. Gingrich?

“Either [former Virginia] Gov. Mark Warner or [Indiana] Sen. Evan Bayh have a lot to offer the Democratic Party because they’re more moderate,” he said, although he predicted that either would have a very tough time beating New York Sen.Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination.

Mr. Gingrich said Mrs. Clinton will have a tough time winning over voters in much of the country, including Florida, but Republicans are foolish to underestimate her.

“She’s very smart; she works very hard. Anyone who thinks we’re going to beat her easily is just wrong. We can beat her if we have better ideas and better solutions, and people have a choice between a left-wing view of the world and a solution-oriented view of the world. We’re not going to beat her just with an anti-Hillary campaign,” he said.

Mr. Gingrich likewise fretted that the Republican loyalists might stay away from the polls in November out of disenchantment with Republican leaders in Washington, the St. Petersburg [Fla.] Times reports.

Dayton’s jibes

When asked to describe his attitude in his last few months in office, Sen. Mark Dayton cited a line from the 1971 song “Me and Bobby McGee.”

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” he said.

The first-term Minnesota Democrat is not seeking re-election and, these days, sounds very much like a politician with nothing left to lose, the Associated Press reports.

In February, upset about a plan by a South Dakota railroad to run coal trains close to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Mr. Dayton said the clinic “is worth a hell of a lot more than the whole state of South Dakota.”

He later apologized for the remark.

The next month, he called fellow Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold’s proposal to censure President Bush over a warrantless surveillance program “an overreaching step by someone who is grandstanding and running for president at the expense of his own party and his own country.”

Mr. Dayton did not apologize for that.

He even told a Minnesota high-school group that he’d give himself an “F” if he had to grade his accomplishments in the Senate.

“And I would give the entire Congress, of which I’m a member, an ‘F’ for results,” Mr. Dayton said. He pointed out that he also told the students that he’d give himself an “A-minus” for effort.

Lack of enthusiasm

The race for the Democratic nomination for California governor enters its final stretch this week in a virtual tie, with a large chunk of voters still undecided — and unimpressed by their two choices in the June 6 primary, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

In part, analysts said, the two Democratic candidates —state Treasurer Phil Angelides and state Controller Steve Westly — have to overcome voter fatigue. With the recall in 2003 and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election last year, the state’s voters have not had a year off from the barrage of TV ads and campaign rallies since 2001.

“I think there is a lack of enthusiasm for the two candidates,” said political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe of the University of Southern California. “I think the whole country is in a very sour mood. People are not happy about the way government is performing at all.”

A poll released last week by the Public Policy Institute of California found Mr. Angelides with a slight edge, 35 percent to 32 percent, within the poll’s margin of error. That was a big improvement for the treasurer, who was 13 points behind in a Los Angeles Times poll last month.

Not going away

“June 6, 2006, is an important date, not only because it’s the 62nd anniversary of D-Day. It’s also the day the Senate will vote on the so-called marriage amendment, which would amend the Constitution to restrict marriage in America to a man and a woman,” Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.

“It won’t pass. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate and the House. When the Senate voted in 2004, the amendment got only 48 votes. This time, it’s likely to get more — probably between 52 and 58 — in part because a powerful and unusually ecumenical religious coalition is now backing the amendment. And President Bush, despite his wife Laura’s admonition that the marriage issue ought to be kept out of politics, plans to host a pro-amendment event at the White House and speak out in favor of the amendment,” Mr. Barnes said.

“Once dismissed as a sop to social conservatives, the proposed amendment has become a serious rallying point for opponents of same-sex marriage. The June 6 vote will put senators on the record and make their position on the amendment a potential campaign issue. And the formation of the religious coalition means the issue won’t go away soon.”

On the lookout

The group Public Advocate of the United States said yesterday that it had set up sobriety checkpoints on Capitol Hill over the holiday weekend to protect the public against Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, andhis son, Rep.Patrick J. Kennedy, Rhode Island Democrat.

“Citizen volunteers have responded to the call, and we have erected checkpoints at several intersections to prevent any Kennedy from driving in an impaired manner on Capitol Hill. We selected the long Memorial Day weekend due to the increased potential for a repeat of earlier car accidents,” said Eugene Delgaudio, president of the group.

Volunteers patrolling in front of the U.S. Capitol and in front of the Supreme Court are attempting to prevent a repeat of Kennedy-related car accidents, the group said. The elder Mr. Kennedy walked away from a 1969 Chappaquiddick Island auto accident after a day of drinking, leaving campaign aide Mary Jo Kopechne to drown in the car. His son earlier this month crashed his car into a concrete barrier on Capitol Hill while, he said, disoriented from prescription drugs.

The checkpoints were mobile units comprising two dozen persons alternating positions around the Capitol. Volunteers wore bright orange or yellow vests and yellow construction hats and carried traffic cones and traffic directional signs (stop, slow down, go) and posters that identified them as the “Kennedy Sobriety Checkpoint” and with a message that states, “If your name is Kennedy, Get Out of the Car.”

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

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