Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Hail to the Fox," Sept. 15, 2001

Just when Saturday Night Live's Will Ferrell thought one of his funniest impersonations would have to be mothballed forever, Janet Reno is back. After three months touring her state in a red pickup, it's official: Reno's running against Jeb Bush to be Florida's next governor. Democrats are still seething that Florida's electoral votes went to Jeb's brother, denying the presidency to Al Gore ... A poll by the Mason-Dixon research group taken in July shows Bush defeating Reno, 54 percent to 39 percent, but 47 percent of Florida Democrats believe Reno, 63 and suffering from Parkinson's disease, has the right stuff to avenge Gore's loss. Others are not so sure: At least six other Democrats plan to compete in the primary, including former congressman and U.S. ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson ... Conservative Democrats say Reno is too liberal and would scare away crucial moderate and independent swing voters in the general election: "It will be real tough to support Janet Reno in northern Florida," State Rep. Will Kendrick, a conservative Democrat in a Panhandle district, tells the Miami Herald. Cuban Americans may also mobilize against Reno in southern Florida because of her decision as Attorney General to use federal agents to gain custody of 6-year-old Elian Gonzalez. The most vulnerable senator in Washington is not-as most pundits assume-New Hampshire Republican Bob Smith ... Smith, who was between 15 and 20 points behind the Granite State's Democrat governor Jeanne Shaheen earlier this year, has now pulled neck and neck after an intense summer of campaigning. That makes New Jersey Democrat Bob Torricelli Washington's most vulnerable. Internal GOP polling shows that just 31 percent of all New Jersey voters view Torricelli favorably; his unfavorable rating is 35 percent and rising ... Half of the nearly $1 million he's raised this year has gone to legal fees alone, amidst a federal probe of his personal and campaign finances. This seemingly good news for Republicans has a big downside: the GOP has been unable to recruit a challenger. Popular former Governor Tom Kean, a moderate Republican, leads Torricelli by double digits ... Inexplicably, Kean hasn't shown much interest in getting into the race. He says he'll decide later this year, but rather than build a serious organization and raise serious money, Kean took a summer vacation to China. No sooner did North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms announce his retirement than Texas Sen. Phil Gramm announced he, too, is leaving ... Now rumors are swirling through the capital that Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson may be the next to go ... Gramm's seat is probably not in serious jeopardy, but Democrats are licking their chops at the prospect of a shot at another open seat: "Remarkably the things I came to Washington to do are done," says the conservative who devoted his life to balancing the budget and reigning in spending, "Never in American history has so much power been passed back from the federal government to the states, to the counties, to the cities and to the people, than in the last 25 years." A shrewd political operative, Gramm was first elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1978. After helping President Reagan pass his tax cuts in 1981, Gramm quit the Democratic Party and his congressional seat in 1983 and ran as a Republican in a special election ... He won handily, and in 1984 won a Senate seat, to which he was twice re-elected. In 1994, Gramm led the National Republican Senatorial Committee to recapture control of the Senate; two years later, he ran for the GOP presidential nomination, but his campaign never caught fire.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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