Dispatches > The Buzz

Flash Traffic

Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "Paying the price," Feb. 9, 2002

Will President Bush's charm offensive with Sen. Ted Kennedy pay off? Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, has after months of delay scheduled a Feb. 14 Senate hearing for the president's nominee to head one of the most influential civil-rights positions in the U.S. government. Jerry Reynolds, who Bush announced last June would be his assistant education secretary for civil rights, is the son of a retired New York City police officer who grew up in the South Bronx. Married with three children, he is an experienced litigator, holds a law degree from Boston University Law School, and worked on education and civil-rights issues as president of the Center for New Black Leadership, a Washington-based think tank. The question is whether Kennedy wants to let Reynolds be confirmed, thus dramatically elevating the profile of a black conservative who fully supports "affirmative action" but firmly opposes race-based quotas and set-asides. If Reynolds is confirmed, he will move into the office once held by Clarence Thomas.

Despite the war and Secret Service concerns, Vice President Cheney is planning to hit the campaign trail this month. Cheney will raise funds for GOP candidates and drive the administration's message that tax cuts are the key to spurring investment and job creation, and that economic security is integral to national security. Some two dozen campaign events are planned for the vice president this year. Top priority: defending GOP incumbents in tough states, such as California Reps. Richard Pombo and John Doolittle.

Two new California polls confirm conservative businessman Bill Simon gaining in his bid to win the GOP nomination for governor. It's not yet clear whether the well-funded Simon can win, but the polls do confirm liberal Richard Riordan is more vulnerable than previously believed. In early January, Simon drew just 5 percent support, while Riordan was the prohibitive front-runner. Now the Los Angeles Times poll of 1,294 likely voters puts Riordan at 34 percent, while Simon-benefiting from a new TV and radio ad blitz and Rudy Guiliani's endorsement-has quadrupled his support to 20 percent. Secretary of State Bill Jones remains steady at 13 percent. A full third of those surveyed say they don't know who they'll vote for, suggesting more volatility ahead. A new Field Poll also shows Simon gaining, but less dramatically (Riordan: 46 percent, Simon 13 percent, Jones 13 percent).

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War and recession have bumped his name out of the headlines. But embattled California Rep. Gary Condit faces a March 5 primary, and a new poll shows he's in serious trouble. Only 24 percent of Democrats in the newly redrawn 18th Congressional District say they'll support Condit, and more than half (52 percent) say they'll support Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, a former Condit aide. Moreover, if Condit does squeak through the primary, the polls have him losing to Republican state Sen. Dick Monteith in the fall, 55 percent to 29 percent. Cardoza, by contrast, leads Monteith, 46 percent to 35 percent. True, the poll was commissioned by Cardoza. But California Democrats are taking it seriously; it may be the reason both Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer have announced they are now supporting Cardoza instead of Condit.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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