Speculation is running rampant in Washington that Arizona Sen. John McCain may be the next to bolt the GOP ... the White House is increasingly concerned about the direction of McCain and isn't quite sure how to handle him at this point ... one ominous sign: Unlike James Jeffords, McCain actually voted against the president's $1.35 trillion tax-cut package ... he appears to be positioning himself as the "make-or-break senator," the guy whom everyone in Washington will be watching on every bill important to the president ... the White House fully expected Sen. Lincoln Chafee (from liberal Rhode Island) to vote against the tax-cut package ... but should the president have to walk on eggshells for a senator from Barry Goldwater's Arizona, the home of "less government, more freedom" conservatism? ... McCain won the New Hampshire primary attacking George W. Bush's tax cuts as too large ... he continues to triangulate, positioning himself as an independent between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans ... "I can't believe Senator McCain will leave the party," Sen. Trent Lott told Sean Hannity on New York's WABC ... "But I am taking nothing for granted after the events of the last week." It was no surprise to some in Washington that James Jeffords, a big-government liberal, didn't feel at home among conservatives ... National Taxpayers Union's Tom McClusky notes that "during his time in the Senate, Sen. Jeffords has asked for over $276 billion more in increased spending than the average Senate Democrat, and almost $531 billion more in increased spending than the average Senate Republican" ... during the 103rd Congress, McClusky writes, "Jeffords sponsored and co-sponsored legislation that would have increased federal spending by $456 billion each year. In contrast, the average Republican senator's net agenda would have saved taxpayers $23 billion and the average Democratic senator's net agenda would have increased spending by $196 billion." The buzz in Washington in the wake of the Jeffords Jolt is "Whither Trent Lott?" ... will the man who replaced Bob Dole in 1996 as the Senate majority leader now find himself removed both from his beautifully ornate Capitol Hill office, and from his position of GOP leadership? ... asked by a TV reporter if he's in trouble, Lott replied, "No. We've got a good leadership team. We had meetings last week as a result of all this. We've come out unified and committed to the American people's agenda" ... true, no Republican senator has directly challenged Lott ... yet ... but pundits and political insiders recall how quickly and unexpectedly then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich left town in 1998. California Republicans are beginning to dream that they just might retake the governorship next year ... it won't be easy, but there are signs of hope on the horizon ... a new Field Poll finds Democratic Governor Gray Davis slipping fast as the state's energy crisis intensifies and rolling blackouts severely affect the Golden State's quality of life ... 60 percent of Californians approved of Davis's job performance in January, while only 30 percent disapproved ... but today only 42 percent approve of Davis and nearly half-49 percent-disapprove. Black Americans like George W. Bush's ideas ... but they don't like him ... that's the conclusion of a new BAMPAC-Black America's Political Action Committee-poll by the Tarrance Group ... fewer than one in five black Americans (19 percent) approve of President Bush's job performance and a full 45 percent disapprove, yet 55 percent want across-the-board tax cuts, while only 29 percent want "targeted tax cuts" ... 58 percent like the idea of the government working with faith-based social service organizations because it will get better results at lower cost, while 31 percent believe that violates the separation of church and state.
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