WASHINGTON, Feb. 11, 1999 (UPI) -- The White House spokesman is confirming President Clinton will campaign hard for Democrats before 2000 in a bid to retake control of the House but says the impeachment managers won't be the key targets. That's because most of the 13 lawmakers who led his prosecution in the Senate had little or no opposition in the last election, said press secretary Joe Lockhart.
''So I don't think the House managers are the most likely people the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and others will target,'' he said. But Lockhart confirmed the president intends to be very active in the bid to retake control of the House for Democrats, who are only six votes shy of the Republican majority, 221-212.
Admitting he still harbors ''frustration over the partisan proceedings in the House,'' Lockhart wouldn't deny published reports today that Clinton was making it a personal campaign because of his ire over becoming the second U.S. president to be impeached.
He stated: ''It's the way our political system works. We're going to campaign hard for Democrats over the next two years but we're also going to work with the Republicans to try to get business done.''
Lockhart was responding to a report in The New York Times that quoted unnamed advisers as saying the president has specifically targeted House Republicans who may be vulnerable in the next election.
One adviser was quoted as saying, ''He knows the districts, he knows the candidates and he doesn't like these people. He's obviously real hot on the managers. He thinks winning back the House is part of his legacy.''
The article, appearing on the day the Senate was nearing conclusion of Clinton's impeachment trial, drew immediate condemnation from Republicans, including Senate GOP leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, who oversees the chamber where 19 GOP senators face re-election in 2000.
''It is deeply troubling that the president views closure of this constitutional process as an opportunity for revenge,'' Lott said in a statement. The head of the Republican Party, RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, scheduled an afternoon news conference.
Lockhart said Clinton has always campaigned zealously for Democrats.
''The president...has always been someone who has vigorously campaigned for Democrats around the country,'' the spokesman said. ''We're going to do that vigorously this year as we've done in the past. The slim margin in the House makes it that much more likely that Democrats can regain control...That's a goal the president is going to work very hard to achieve.''