UPI's Capital Comment for Dec. 12 ,2002

By United Press International  |  Dec. 12, 2002 at 1:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (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.

Taking a gamble...

It's hot in Nevada and, as the 2004 U.S. Senate race shapes up, it could get even hotter. Democrat Harry Reid, the Senate's minority whip, is up for re-election and finds himself near the top of the GOP target list. In 1992 he won re-election with 51 percent of the vote, an underwhelming performance considering he outspent his Republican opponent by 6-to-1. In 1998 he defeated Republican John Ensign, now his Senate colleague, by just 428 votes -- the closest Senate race in state history. With so many people new to the state since his last race, Reid could be in trouble.

Several GOPers are being touted as potential Reid opponents if he runs for re-election. They include newly re-elected Gov. Kenny Guinn, state Controller Kathy Augustine and Jim Gibbons, the congressman from the state's 2nd Congressional District that -- until the state gained a seat after the 2000 census -- was pretty much the entire state save for Las Vegas.

If Gibbons does decide to make the run, it appears that he may not have Ensign's backing, something of a surprise as the two served together in the U.S. House during the 105th Congress. The rumor in Nevada GOP circles is that Ensign will not, for some reason, support Gibbons if he runs. What that reason is remains to be seen.

Snow's confirmation appears on track...

The more they learn about him, the more the idea of CSX's John Snow as the next U.S. Treasury Secretary goes down easy among those who feared his "big business" background meant he was a carbon copy of outgoing Secretary Paul O'Neill. Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says Snow's railroad ties make him an ideal candidate for the job.

"John Snow has touched all the bases relative to making a positive contribution to America's economic future," Smith says. "He was an active scholar in the Washington think tank community and a deregulating bureaucrat." Smith, whose group is a leading pro-free market organization, says the most important factor is his business experience.

"He took an industry weakened by 100 years of government regulation and revitalized it. The railroad industry is a network industry and, when you free the grid and the flows and give industry the freedom to innovate as was done with railroads, supposedly dying industries can be revitalized," Smith says, going on to contrast it with the deregulation of the electricity, airline and telephone industries that have been hammered of late.

As a railroad executive, Smith says, Snow had to deal with transportation policy, energy policy, tax policy and other issues vital to the health of the American economy. Now, Smith hopes, he will be put in a position to apply those lessons to the rest of the economy. "For the first time in many years we have a Treasury secretary who understand, not just macro-economic policy, but micro-economic policy. That's very important."

Don't take her for Granite...

After being beaten in the race for U.S. Senate by Republican U.S. Rep. John Sununu, outgoing New Hampshire Gov. Jeanne Shaheen is considering her options. She is said to be looking for a position in academia or in the private sector, which, as one New Hampshire Republican said, "doesn't exactly narrow it down." Also up for review are her political options, now somewhat limited by her loss.

This is something of a come-down for a woman once considered a potential running mate on the Democrats' national ticket.

One likely scenario would be for her to run against 1st District U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley in November 2004. A GOP freshman, Bradley is a moderate-to-liberal Republican who won the primary with a plurality of the vote against several more conservative candidates. Most say that would be an uphill battle for Shaheen unless Bradley is "primaried" from the right -- not a complete impossibility given the way the primary in 2002 turned out. Another option would be for Shaheen to lead the effort in New Hampshire for one of the Democrats considering a presidential run. This would give her a chance to keep her political organization working and keep her viable for another statewide race down the road.

It's the Pitts...

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., a leading opponent of abortion rights in Congress, may be paying a price for his beliefs. Shortly before the House adjourned for the year, Pitts led a successful bipartisan effort to defeat the rule on the bankruptcy bill in order to force changes in its language. Pitts and others were concerned that a controversial provision would affect the ability of peaceful anti-abortion protestors to discharge debts incurred as a result activities protected under the First Amendment. They wanted the language removed as the price of their support.

Due to his efforts, the rule was defeated. The bill as changed passed the House, only to die in the Senate, Now Pitts is having a tough time raising money for his campaign war chest. We hear that some of the lobbyists on K Street -- angry over the defeat of the bankruptcy bill they worked for five years to pass -- are blaming Pitts rather than the Senate leaders who would not put the bill on the floor for the defeat, and have put the evil eye on Pitts.

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