WASHINGTON, Conn., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Capital Comment -- Daily news notes, political rumors and important events that shape politics and public policy in Washington and the world from United Press International.
The brawl on the bayou -- Things are not getting any easier for Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. She first won election to the Senate in 1996, winning by a margin of less than 6,000 votes in a contest severely tainted by allegations of fraud at the polls. In the ensuing six years, she has worked hard to establish her credentials as a moderate Democrat, often following the lead of the state's senior senator, Democrat John Breaux. Now it looks like she may be in for a heck of a fight come the fall.
When Landrieu's only opponent was GOP U.S. Rep. John Cooksey, most observers believed she was a safe bet for re-election. Then state Rep. Tony Perkins, a Republican best known for authoring the state's covenant marriage law making it harder to get a divorce, joined the race. Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell, also a Republican, is in the race along with the Rev. Raymond Brown, a black community activist running at Landrieu from the left. In a five-way race, Landrieu's re-election is much less certain because all the candidates run on the same ballot in November. If no one gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers compete in a December run off. Landrieu supporters and national Democrats, who thought they could breathe easier once state Sen. Cleo Fields -- a black Democrat who is a former member of the U.S. House and who does not get along with Landrieu -- announced he would not join the race, may have spoken too soon. State Sen. Don Cravins, who, like Fields is a black Democrat, said Wednesday that he was considering getting into the race. If he does, it means both the Democrat and Republican votes will split into thirds, making a December runoff all but certain.
Corporate confidence -- A new Gallup poll conducted at the end of July for CNN/USA Today has at least one reassuring number for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Of the 1,004 adults surveyed between July 26 and July 28, 72 percent said it was a good thing "For both President Bush and Vice President Cheney to have experience as corporate executives." This is likely welcome news as the administration has been fielding allegations that the vice president is ducking reporters rather than answering questions about Halliburton, the multi-national company he led before joining the Bush ticket in 2000.
Is the Torch being passed? -- Sen. Bob Torricelli's re-election campaign has stumbled badly following his being admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee. A new Quinnipiac University poll of 879 registered voters has the first-term New Jersey Democrat getting 37 percent of the vote, putting him even with his GOP opponent, businessman Douglas Forrester. The poll also finds Torricelli viewed in an increasingly unfavorable light. Only 28 percent of respondents approve of the job he is doing as a senator, 49 percent disapprove. His personal favorable/unfavorable numbers are equally bleak; his favorable is 15 percent to 36 percent unfavorable.
Forrester's numbers are low but generally favorable, meaning that most voters do not know him. The fall campaign, therefore, is likely to be almost all about Forrester, as both campaigns try to define him to their own benefit as the voters are learning more about him.
Congressional crack shots -- More than 100 House and Senate staffers turned out this week for the 4th Annual Congressional Staff Shoot sponsored by the National Association of Convenience Stores, Sullivan and Worcester LLP and the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation. Equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats turned up at the Prince George's County, Md., Trap and Skeet Center for the outing, which featured instruction in basic firearm handling and safety and an introduction to trap and skeet for first-time shooters. Almost half the attendees had never shot a gun before while many others had been introduced to the sport at this same event in previous years. The more experienced shooters participated in a 25/25/25 tournament -- trap, skeet and sporting clays -- which was won by Jeff Koch, administrative assistant to Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.
Money doesn't grow on trees, it just keeps them standing -- The Bush administration has pledged to significantly increase funding to help developing countries mitigate environmental problems with potential global impact. At replenishment talks that concluded in Washington Wednesday, the United States pledged $500 million over the next four years for the Global Environment Facility, a 16 percent increase over its contribution to the previous replenishment. Supporters of the program say this will in turn help leverage about $2.2 billion in total new donor contributions.
The GEF, established in 1991, funds projects that promote clean and efficient energy use -- including reduction of greenhouse gases -- conserve biodiversity, clean up international waters and phase out ozone-depleting chemicals. The Department of the Treasury says that new focal areas in the upcoming replenishment period "will help combat problems caused by persistent organic pollutants, which pose a particular threat in areas in the northern United States, and fight land degradation with a focus on desertification and deforestation in some of the world's poorest countries." The United States is the largest contributor to GEF.
An inflated opinion -- The gun issue played an important role in the Dingell v. Rivers, Democrat-on-Democrat Michigan primary Tuesday. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., the dean of the House, is a supporter of gun rights. Running against him was Rep. Lynn Rivers, D-Mich., a National Rifle Association foe who had the support of the Brady Campaign, the nation's leading gun-ban organization.
According to the Detroit Free Press, "Rivers spent a day campaigning with leading gun-control advocate Sarah Brady, wife of the former White House press secretary who was injured in the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. While Rivers complained of his involvement with the NRA, Dingell argued for the constitutional right to bear arms." After Dingell was declared the winner, the Brady campaign's Michael D. Barnes had this to say: "Although Dingell squeaked by, this race is a warning to all of the gun lobby's congressional cronies -- standing with the gun lobby jeopardizes your congressional seat. Americans want sensible gun laws." That Dingell defeated Rivers by 59 percent to 41 percent probably slipped by him.
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