Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Keep the faith," June 23, 2001

Now that Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) is the Senate's new majority leader, House Republicans are increasingly anxious about the possibility of Speaker Dick Gephardt after the 2002 elections ... they are specifically concerned about where President Bush's Social Security Reform Commission is headed, particularly after the group held its first meeting in Washington June 11 ... while House Republican leaders generally support the president's reform ideas, they worry about the public and private statements of former Democratic Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, co-chairman of the Bush Commission ... Moynihan keeps talking about cutting retirement benefits for current and imminent retirees by reducing COLAs (cost-of-living adjustments) and raising the retirement age, thus requiring people to work longer before they can begin collecting full benefits ... should the commission's final report this fall advocate such changes, Hill Republicans fear a Democratic attack against a vulnerable GOP majority charging Republicans want to "end Social Security as we know it" and rob the greatest generation of the Social Security benefits they have earned and deserve ... Convinced Social Security could be the best issue to make Gephardt the new House Speaker, Democrats are road-testing a number of anti-reform arguments designed to scare Republican and independent seniors into the Democratic camp ... in May, Gephardt charged the president "wants to divert $1 trillion out of Social Security into private accounts. This will double Social Security's shortfall, and deplete the trust fund by 2023, 15 years earlier than currently projected" ... and for the last several weeks of the special election in Virginia's 4th Congressional District, Democrats developed ads accusing Republican candidate Randy Forbes of "hiding a plan ... to privatize Social Security and let Wall Street gamble with seniors' hard-earned money." The possibility that Democratic Sen. Bob Torricelli may face federal indictments makes the race for governor of New Jersey all the more important ... the next governor may have the power to change the makeup of the U.S. Senate if he's faced with the decision to appoint a successor to Torricelli ... with the GOP primary fast approaching on June 26, conservative Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler has pulled even closer to liberal former Congressman Bob Franks: A campaign memo by Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies details a new poll of 400 likely Republican New Jersey voters taken June 6-7 (margin of error ± 5 percent) that shows Schundler just 5 points behind Franks (31 percent to 36 percent). It also suggests that "among those voters who are most interested in the election"-grassroots, Reaganesque conservatives-Schundler now has "a wide 42 percent to 29 percent lead over Franks." A Catholic group with nearly 100,000 members is organizing a major national grassroots educational campaign aimed at mobilizing pro-life Catholics to "be politically active" in the 2002 elections ... "Priests For Life"-formed in 1991 with the help of the Vatican and the late New York Cardinal O'Connor-has just launched a $12 million advertising campaign with billboards, full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and radio and TV advertising that will start later this summer and run through next year's campaign cycle ... the group's national director, the Rev. Frank Pavone, speaks in parishes all over the country and is scheduled to appear on James Dobson's radio show later this summer ... the newspaper ads focus on "examples of young women who lost their lives while getting a legal abortion" ... the ads challenge the National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), and Planned Parenthood to help launch "an investigation of the standards by which abortion clinics do or do not protect the health of their patients." Vouchers have gone down in flames yet again in Congress ... but advocates of giving parents more freedom to choose schools that work best for their kids may find hope in the resurrection of an old strategy with remarkable new popularity: educational tax credits ... "7 in 10 voters approve of providing parents with a $2,000 educational tax credit, per child, to be used for computers, books, tutoring, or any other educational expense, including tuition," finds a new survey by pollster John McLaughlin ... he adds that "the approval of this education tax credit increases among key voting groups that the Republicans need to target ... moderates, voters who don't have an opinion of George W. Bush, voters who say education is the most important issue, Independents, households with an income under $40K, Catholics, voters 40 and younger, and African-Americans" ... Bottom line? "Unlike vouchers, education tax credits are widely approved by voters," says McLaughlin. "In addition, most voters already have a clear understanding of [such] credits and realize that [they] will help improve education and give parents more school choice."

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