UPI's Capital Comment for March 12, 2003

March 12, 2003 at 12:57 PM
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WASHINGTON, March 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.

Under pressure...

A member of Congress who suggested the push toward war with Iraq is the result of Jewish political influence is still reeling from the political impact his statement made. U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., told a crowd of more than 100 people gathered in a Reston, Va., church that, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this," adding, "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going, and I think they should."

The remarks, which Moran has acknowledged making, were first reported in the Reston Connection, a small newspaper in the Washington suburbs, and have become national news. The seven-term congressman has issued two public apologies in the last four days, saying he should not have singled out the Jewish community as being somehow responsible for "the impending war."

This is not the first time that Moran has gotten into trouble -- but it is the first time that a problem appears to have taken root. By his comments, the congressman has managed to alienate himself from a core constituency inside his suburban Washington district. By Tuesday, six rabbis from the area had publicly called for him to resign with one, Rabbi Jack Moline, comparing Moran's comments and his "treatment of the Jewish community and its concerns" to the arguably pro-segregationist remark that forced Mississippi's Trent Lott to step down as the leader of his party in the Senate.

The congressional district he represents was redrawn after the 1990 Census by the Republican-controlled state legislature to be an even safer seat for the veteran Democrat -- but rumors of his impending demise continue. He continually rebuffed suggestions that he resign as word begins to circulate about a possible inter-party challenge in the next election -- perhaps by retiring Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley. Other possibilities include any of several Democrats in the congressional district who are stepping down from safe seats in the state legislature as of the November 2003 election.

Horse race...

A new poll from New Hampshire's 7News and Suffolk University shows Massachusetts Sen. John F. Kerry with a 15-point lead over his closest rival in the state's Democratic presidential primary. The survey of 496 voters likely to participate in the primary -- including a heavy bloc of self-identified independents -- has Kerry leading among men, women, Democrats and independents.

In second place among all voters is Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the party's 2000 vice presidential nominee, at 17 percent among all voters. Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who has a surprisingly low 63-percent name identification given the proximity of his state to New Hampshire, is in third place at 10 percent.

If the survey is correctly measuring the trend, then it likely set off alarm bells inside the campaign of former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., who finished fourth with 6 percent of the vote. The low number itself is not cause for concern but, when measured against Gephardt's 90-percent name identification measure among the participants, it could spell trouble for the veteran candidate.

To know him is not to love him...

Whether it was a publicity stunt to attract attention to his flagging television program or he is actually serious, a possible U.S. Senate race by television's Jerry Springer is turning off Ohio voters. The former Cincinnati politician has been making noise about challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. George Voinovich in 2004. The respected Ohio Poll, which surveyed 638 registered voters in February, found Springer losing to Voinovich 77 percent to 16 percent and among all categories of voters. And while the talk show host has 98-percent name ID, his favorable rating is just 13 percent while his 71 percent unfavorable rating is almost unheard of. Democrats say they are talking to former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar about making the race. Democrat state Sen. Eric Fingerhut, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, has already announced a bid for the nomination.

Of special interests...

A new report says that corporations, advocacy organizations, labor unions, and individuals spent more than $173 million on 117 ballot measures on the 2002 ballot. The Ballotfunding.org project of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center Foundation says the total amount is roughly equal to the amount of soft money contributions made to both national political parties by the agribusiness, defense, electric and telephone utilities, insurance, oil and gas and pharmaceutical industries combined in the 2002 election.

One trend the group has identified: Heavy spending on behalf of the "Yes" position does not guarantee a win but heavy spending on behalf of "No" almost always does.

"When ballot proponents are spending over $65 per vote, we know that the ballot measure process continues to be dominated by special interests that are both frustrated with the legislative process and have money to burn," Ballotfunding.org's Galen Nelson said.

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