President Bush picked up an unexpected ally in his strategy to end the regime of Saddam Hussein: House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt. But Mr. Gephardt's decision to back the use of military force to oust the Iraqi dictator represents a major flip-flop for the man who led the opposition to President George H.W. Bush's war plans in 1991. It may also signal a broader sense of political vulnerability on the part of Democrats concerning national-security issues heading into the mid-term elections this fall. "I share President Bush's resolve to confront this menace head-on," Mr. Gephardt said of Saddam Hussein in an address to the Council on Foreign Relations on June 3. "I stand ready to work with this administration to build an effective policy to terminate the threat posed by this regime." Mr. Gephardt was one of mostly Democratic votes on Jan. 12, 1991, against a congressional resolution authorizing the "use of force" against Iraq. Observers say Mr. Gephardt is positioning himself to challenge Al Gore for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 and doesn't want to be outflanked by Mr. Gore, who voted to use force against Iraq in 1991.
Openly worried about losing control of the House, top Republican leaders are warning publicly about life under "Speaker Gephardt." Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told key activists in Washington on June 4 that the GOP had to build a better voter-mobilization "ground game"-or "welcome back the Dark Ages of big government under Democrat control." He noted that the party's five-seat House margin "was decided by only 9,500 votes nationwide" and that in the six key races in 2000, "the Republican margin of victory was less than 1 percent of the total vote" and "several House races were decided by fewer than 200 votes." House Republicans are now building a massive get-out-the-vote operation, recruiting hard-core GOP volunteers in "safe" Republican districts and assigning them to work in "at-risk" districts handing out fliers, making phone calls, and going door-to-door in the week before the fall elections. Dubbed "STOMP"-Strategic Task Force for the Organization and Mobilization of People-the operation was field-tested in last year's special election in Virginia that sent Randy Forbes to Congress. House Republicans dispatched 450 volunteers to help Mr. Forbes knock on 56,000 doors in the campaign's final weekend. In the precincts contacted by these volunteers, Mr. DeLay said, Mr. Forbes won 68 percent to 30 percent. His opponent won only one precinct contacted by left-wing groups by 49 percent to 44 percent. Mr. Forbes won the election 52 percent to 48 percent.
Janet Reno is running for her political life in Florida. Not only is she about 20 points behind Gov. Jeb Bush in the polls, she may not even win the Sept. 10 primary. Ms. Reno's Democratic challenger, Bill McBride, has already raised $1.6 million to Ms. Reno's $1.1 million. Mr. McBride, the 57-year-old former managing partner of Florida's largest law firm, has also secured the endorsements of the 122,000-member Florida Education Association and the 500,000-member AFL-CIO and plans to begin a summer advertising blitz soon. With President Clinton unlikely to be much help, Ms. Reno is now looking to Hollywood for help, bringing in "President Josiah Bartlett" from NBC's West Wing-liberal actor Martin Sheen-to campaign for her.
Hollywood may soon turn John McCain's life into a major motion picture. The film rights to Faith of My Fathers-Mr. McCain's bestselling memoir-were just optioned by Robert Geisler, who produced The Thin Red Line. Mr. McCain tells The New York Times he'd love to see Robert Duvall play his father, and Edward Norton play the young Vietnam-era McCain.