UPI's Capital Comment for Dec. 24, 2002

By United Press International  |  Dec. 24, 2002 at 11:34 AM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (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.

Hillary watch...

A CNN/Time magazine poll of more than 1,000 adults finds New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has more support for a presidential run than any of the announced or putative Democrats running for the nomination. Though Clinton has, through aides, stated repeatedly that she does not intend to make the race, the former first lady is the choice of 30 percent of registered Democrats in the survey released Saturday. Running behind Clinton at 13 percent each are Sens. John F. Kerry, D-Mass., and Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. The other candidates in the survey in which Clinton was included had support in the single digits.

Without Clinton, "unsure" leads the field at 24 percent followed by Kerry and Lieberman at 16 percent each. Previous polls listed Al Gore, the Democrat's nominee in 2000, at the top but he has announced that he will not run. The survey was conducted Tuesday and Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.


The news that former U.S. Rep. Bill McCollum is acting like a candidate for U.S. Senate has a number of national Republicans and Florida conservatives very, very unhappy. McCollum was never much of a favorite among Republicans in Washington. Among his sins, he led the fight to keep the Legal Services Administration -- which is supposed to provide legal aid to the poor but, more often than not critics say, underwrites lawsuits seeking to achieve liberal political aims -- from being closed in the Reagan and Bush 41 administrations. McCollum won the GOP nomination for the seat left vacant by the retirement of Republican Connie Mack in 2000 only to be crushed in the general election by former Democratic congressman Bill Nelson.

Nelson, who had also been state treasurer and state insurance commissioner as well as a space shuttle astronaut in 1986, led the race from the beginning and won with a healthy 51 percent to 46 percent margin in spite of being outspent by almost $2 million.

Very few Florida Republicans are excited by the idea of McCollum trying again and would prefer to see federal Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, GOP Lt. Gov. Frank Brogan or newly-elected state Attorney General Charlie Crist as the party's nominee. If McCollum continues to maneuver, sources in Florida say, it will not be long before an ABM -- Anybody But McCollum -- movement springs up.

Moving on up...

GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, the 32-year-old political "wunderkind" who just a few years ago was a congressional staffer on Capitol Hill, is being talked about seriously for the party's nomination to run against Wisconsin Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold in Nov. 2004.

Ryan is a favorite of the pro-growth wing of the GOP that is known for putting many thousands of dollars into races behind favored candidates. Feingold, one of the two chief senate sponsors of the now-passed campaign finance reform legislation, eked out a 40,000-vote victory in 1998 and is thought by some to be equally vulnerable in the coming election.

From the "It seemed a good idea at the time" department...

Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W. Va., makes his screen debut as a confederate army general in the upcoming "Gods and Generals," a film about the American Civil War. In a cameo appearance Byrd plays Gen. Paul J. Semmes, CSA, a Georgia plantation owner and banker who was mortally wounded at battle of Gettysburg in July 1863 and died several days later in Martinsburg, W. Va.

Byrd appears in full uniform, something that is bound to get the attention of some who were outraged by recent comments from Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., praising the 1948 presidential run of South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, who had a pro-segregation platform.

The only current U.S. senator to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byrd stirred up a controversy of his own when he twice used the "N" word in a 2001 television interview on the Fox News Channel.

Madame chairman...

Arizona GOP Sen. John McCain prevailed in his fight with the White House to have Ellen Weintraub, a former Capitol Hill attorney, named to a Democratic seat on the Federal Election Commission as a recess appointment.

McCain must now be overjoyed that her colleagues have elected her chairman of the commission for the coming year. In her new role, Weintraub, the wife of Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold's legislative director, will have a lot to say about how the regulations governing the McCain-Feingold campaign legislation will be written an implemented.

UPI's Capital Comment will not be published on Dec. 25, 2002. Merry Christmas to all!

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