Robert Novak
VENTURA HELPS GOP Despite ardent wooing of Jesse Ventura by Vice President Al Gore, the independent governor of Minnesota is contributing to a possible Republican windfall in the tight battle for control of Congress. Ventura has talked a strong candidate -- former County Attorney Tom Foley -- into running for the Independence Party nomination in the St. Paul suburban House district now held by retiring Democratic Rep. Bruce Vento. A Mason-Dixon poll shows Foley with up to 21 percent of the vote, most of it from Democrats. That opens the door to a possible Republican takeover of a strong Democratic district. A footnote: Sen. Rod Grams of Minnesota, once considered the most vulnerable of Republican incumbents, leads all Democrats in the Mason-Dixon poll. He is 17 points ahead of department store heir Mark Dayton, a frequent office-seeker who leads in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. DEBATE ON DEBATES WASHINGTON -- Gore campaign chairman William Daley is drawing a hard line, insisting on the three formal presidential debates proposed by a bipartisan commission and agreeing to encounters on regular television programs only as add-ons. Texas Gov. George W. Bush does better debating in an informal format, such as CNN's "Larry King Live" program during the South Carolina primary, when three candidates and a moderator were seated and crowded together at one table. His campaign has hinted he would like the "Larry King" show and NBC's "Meet the Press" with Tim Russert to constitute two of the three debates. That arrangement has been definitively ruled out by Daley in behalf of Vice President Al Gore. While Gore will be happy to confront Bush on television shows, Daley contends, it will have to be in addition to the three formal debates. Gore-Bush negotiations have not yet begun, at this writing. CHENEY'S CONFLICT Influential Republicans are increasingly concerned about vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney's conflict-of-interest problems caused by the lucrative stock options granted him as part of his retirement from the Halliburton energy company. Cheney would like to defer any surrender of the multi-million dollar options until such time that he is actually elected vice president, but GOP insiders fear that may not be enough. He may have to divest himself of the substantial sum of money now in order to allay any accusation that he will personally benefit in office from rising oil prices. The irony is that former Defense Secretary Cheney, in charge of vetting Republican vice presidential possibilities, did not sufficiently explore his own potential problem. BOY SCOUTS WAR Delegates booing Boy Scouts presenting the colors at the Democratic National Convention reflected a widespread liberal campaign against the youth organization because it bans homosexuals. Democratic Rep. Lynn Woolsey of California has introduced a resolution to withdraw the federal charter enjoyed by the Boy Scouts. The charter grants special privileges, such as National Guard equipment for the Scouts' annual Jamboree and the president of the United States serving as their honorary president. In addition, several United Way chapters are withdrawing funding from their local Boy Scouts in protest against the sexual orientation policy. DEMOCRATIC DEFECTOR Rep. Matthew Martinez of California, who crossed the aisle to join the Republicans after he was defeated for Democratic renomination in his Los Angeles County district this year, has informed GOP leaders he will run for Congress as a Republican in 2002. Martinez was defeated in the March 7 primary with the full force of the Democratic Party turned against him. He has been a moderate liberal through nine terms in Congress, with a lifetime liberal record of 79 percent as measured by the Americans for Democratic Action, and an American Conservative Union rating of 11 percent. But he was targeted by his own party because of his anti-abortion views. With California Republican strategists seeking to appeal to conservative, pro-life Hispanics, Martinez is waiting for the 2001 congressional redistricting before deciding on which district he will contest.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.
 

 
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