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That's politics!

By PETER ROFF, UPI National Political Analyst   |   Sept. 8, 2003 at 11:47 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- National Republican hopes the party would pick up a Nevada U.S. Senate seat in 2004 took a hit recently when U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons stated he would not be a candidate. Gibbons, a four-term U.S. representative, was thought the strongest potential challenger to incumbent Harry Reid, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat.

Reid has been elected three times but never by impressive margins. In 1998 he won re-election by 428 votes over 1st District GOP U.S. Rep. John Ensign -- now Nevada's other U.S. senator.

Gibbons' resume is impressive. A former state assemblyman, he flew for the U.S. Air Force in Vietnam and was called up for active duty in the 1991 Gulf War. In 1994 he lost a race for governor to incumbent Bob Miller, a Democrat, but gained considerable satisfaction when voters ratified -- by a better than 7-to-1 ratio -- his ballot initiative requiring state tax increases pass the Nevada Legislature by a two-thirds supermajority.

GOP insiders say that if Gibbons is taking a pass on the 2004 Senate race it may only be because he expects to run in 2006 -- if Ensign runs for governor. Incumbent GOP Gov. Kenny Guinn is term-limited and damaged political goods thanks to a record tax increase he forced through the Legislature -- with the help of the state Supreme Court, which tossed out, for this instance only, Gibbons' supermajority requirement after Guinn sued to break a legislative impasse.

Republican recruitment efforts are now focused on Nevada Secretary of State Dean Heller and State Controller Kathy Augustine.

It's a good thing for some politicians that the United States is a more sensitive country than it was in the early-1970s.

Meeting with voters Wednesday at Mary Ann's Diner in tiny Derry, N.H., U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry shed a few tears after hearing a woman explain her resolve to send her two sons to college in spite of having lost her job. It was just three decades ago that some tears may have cost another U.S. senator the presidency.

In 1972, U.S. Sen. Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey's 1968 running mate, led the field of Democrats wanting to challenge Richard Nixon in the fall election -- until one cold, February morning when his hopes evaporated in a veil of tears.

Responding to several highly critical articles, Muskie stood on the steps of the Manchester Union-Leader, angrily denouncing publisher William Loeb in the middle of a snowstorm. In the process, Muskie got all choked up and, according to more than one account, started to cry.

Muskie's tears -- shed in front of some of the nation's most important political journalists -- suggested a weak persona that, in contrast to the Nixon administration's image of strong leadership, doomed his presidential hopes. But the United States is now more accommodating of sensitive men. "If John Kerry loses the White House," GOP strategist John Morgan says, "It isn't going to be because he cried in New Hampshire."

Friday's unemployment figures have given some policymakers reason for cautious optimism. "The economy is showing many signs of strength and improvement including increased productivity that will ultimately lead to more jobs," said U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao. "Stronger-than-expected economic growth, an increase in manufacturing and construction activity and increased consumer confidence ... (mean) more Americans will soon be finding good jobs."

That's good news for at least one American who might soon find himself looking for work. If the poll numbers are at all reliable, California voters are ready to toss incumbent Gov. Gray Davis out of office in the Oct. 7 recall election. And, in one of those ironic twists that make U.S. politics so interesting, it was to Davis who gave the Democrat's response to the president's radio address.

The subject of his remarks: Jobs.

Just out from Broadway Books is "Where's Saddam?" a satirical take on the search for the deposed Iraqi dictator. Written by Henry Beard and John Boswell, co-authors of "French for Cats" and "The Official Exceptions to the Rules of Golf," the newly published pop-up book features George W. Bush, dressed like a 1950s-era television cowboy and on a worldwide hunt for the missing Iraqi despot -- who turns up in some rather interesting places under the tabs.

© 2003 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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