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Political buzz from Washington

Issue: "View from the Axis," March 9, 2002

Four high-profile ex-Clinton administration staffers are in serious trouble as they run for political office: Clinton HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo. A new Zogby poll finds the son of liberal icon Mario Cuomo, the former New York governor, supported by only 38 percent of registered Democrats. Young Cuomo is dropping fast in his bid to secure the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. He's now in a dead heat with State Comptroller H. Carl McCall (36 percent). A month ago, Zogby had Cuomo 15 points ahead of McCall. Erskine Bowles, the former Clinton White House chief of staff. True, he leads the Democratic primary to be a North Carolina senator. But only 16 percent of Democrats support him, and almost six in 10 remain undecided. Naturally, Bowles barely mentions Clinton on the stump (it was on his watch that the Monica Lewinsky scandal exploded). Should Bowles win the primary, he'll face Elizabeth Dole, whom 71 percent of Republicans support. Dole last year raised $3 million. Bowles only raised $1.7 million. Then President Bush flew in on Feb. 27 to help Dole and the state Republican Party raise more than $1 million. Clinton Labor Secretary Robert Reich. Despite his Clinton connections and name recognition, Reich is locked in an intense three-way battle for the Democratic nomination for governor in Massachusetts. Reich has 21 percent support, while State Senate President Tom Birmingham and State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien each garner 20 percent. Janet Reno, Clinton's attorney general. She's far behind Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in fund-raising and polls.

Former Whitewater prosecutor Robert Ray hasn't formally announced, but the New Jersey Republican who succeeded Ken Starr is preparing to run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Torricelli. A newcomer to elective politics and without vast personal resources, it is not clear Ray can mount a successful challenge. But a recent poll finds only 20 percent of New Jersey voters believe Torricelli-under an ethical cloud-has "performed his job well enough to deserve reelection," while 49 percent says it's time to elect "someone else."

David Frum, President Bush's top economic speechwriter, has left the White House after a year on the job. He could be the first Bush administration insider to write about his experiences. With a front-row seat to one of the most dramatic first years in office of any modern American president, Frum no doubt has a story of interest to major publishers. His departure made news. Frum's wife, Danielle Crittenden, recently sent friends an e-mail sharing her "wifely pride" that her husband had authored the "axis of evil" line in the State of the Union speech. The e-mail was then published by Slate.com columnist Timothy Noah, over Crittenden's objections that it was merely a private correspondence. Columnist Robert Novak reported that the news of the e-mail angered President Bush and that there is suspicion around the West Wing that Frum was essentially forced out for the indiscretion of publicly getting out in front of the boss. Frum denies this, noting he submitted his letter of resignation before the State of the Union address. The White House Press Office backs him up, as does chief Bush speechwriter Mike Gerson. "There is no controversy about David leaving the White House," Gerson tells WORLD. "As he has correctly and publicly stated, he gave four weeks of notice on Jan. 24. I was sorry to see him go -it was entirely David's choice-and all of us around here wish him well."

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Hemorrhaging conservative viewers to the Fox News Channel, CNN has hired conservative social theorist Bill Bennett to be an exclusive commentator. But it's not yet clear hiring Bennett will stanch CNN's bleeding, especially with CNN also hiring liberal Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala for its flagship political debate show, Crossfire. For the first time in its five-year history, Fox in January overtook CNN in the ratings-and by February, its viewership lead had doubled.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is catching heat from David Letterman and others for taking secret weekend trips away from the city without telling anyone but his closest aides where he's going. Bloomberg, the wealthy founder of the media empire that bears his name, bristles at the notion that it's anyone's business but his. "Wasn't the weather great this weekend in New York City?" Letterman cracked. "It was so beautiful that Mayor Bloomberg actually spent the weekend here!"

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg

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