South Dakato shuffle

Robert Novak
|
Posted: Sep 06, 2003 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- The prospective resignation from Congress of Republican Rep. Bill Janklow, facing manslaughter charges in an August auto fatality, threatens to reshuffle South Dakota politics to the benefit of Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle.

The White House and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have been pressing former Rep. John Thune to run for the Senate as the only Republican with a chance to defeat Daschle. However, Thune might prefer the safer option of running for his old House seat, which he gave up to make an unsuccessful Senate race last year.

The House seat might well go to Democrat Stephanie Herseth if anybody other than Thune runs against her. However, the GOP high command considers the race against Daschle more important in view of the slimmer Republican majority in the Senate.

BUSH'S GOP CRITIC

Cautiously critical comments last Sunday by Sen. Richard Lugar about the Bush administration's handling of Iraq were enough to impel National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to schedule a special one-on-one meeting with the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Rice had a meeting set with the full committee, but she wanted to meet alone with the prestigious Lugar. He has kept to himself many misgivings about the Defense Department's performance in Iraq, but went further last weekend on "Fox News Sunday." He called on President Bush to propose a five-year plan for Iraq and criticized the Pentagon for being "very, very reticent" to request more money.

Republican operatives were alarmed by Lugar joining maverick Republican Sen. John McCain in calling on the administration to be more explicit about what's needed in Iraq. White House aides worry about Lugar getting too close to McCain and the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Joseph Biden.

EDWARDS STILL DUCKING

Sen. John Edwards, trying to restart his flagging presidential campaign, scheduled a second straight soft interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulus Aug. 14 without making himself available to the other three Sunday talk shows in proper rotation.

On July 10, Edwards wrote Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" that "I'm looking forward to finding the time to come to your show." The senator admittedly had not performed well under Russert's questioning May 5, 2002. Edwards has kept away from "Meet the Press" since then, while finding time to engage in easygoing dialogue aboard his campaign van with Stephanopoulus that was broadcast on ABC's "This Week."

Edwards also has been dodging non-Sunday television programs that ask tough questions. He has not gone on CNN's "Crossfire" since May 23, 2001, after appearing there seven times the previous nine months.

"INDEPENDENT" JEFFORDS?

Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, still calling himself an "independent" after leaving the Republican Party in 2001, moved closer to being an outright Democrat by signing a fund-raising letter for Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid's 2004 re-election campaign in Nevada.

The Jeffords letter uses standard partisan Democratic rhetoric. It calls Reid the "only hope" for "blocking the far-right Republican agenda" and contends "the Bush-Cheney fund-raising machine is already in high gear" to finance a "smear campaign."

A footnote: Although Reid has been called a sure winner since Rep. Jim Gibbons decided not to run against him, national GOP operatives never were keen about a Gibbons candidacy. They see Lt. Gov. Lorraine Hunt and Secretary of State Dean Heller as potentially stronger candidates.

HALEY'S D.C. RAID

Former Republican National Chairman Haley Barbour, the nominee for governor of Mississippi this year, will drop into Washington Sept. 22 for a fund-raiser calculated to pick up at least $390,000 from the host committee alone.

The 78 members of the host committee are required to contribute or raise at least $5,000 each. The admission fee for everybody else is $1,000 each. The event at the home of Julie Finley, longtime Republican national committeewoman for the District of Columbia, will be addressed by presidential adviser Karl Rove.

The host committee reads like a who's who of the Republican elite in Washington, D.C., with one notable exception: Thomas Hale Boggs Jr. Lobbyist Tommy Boggs is a prominent Democrat whose parents, Lindy Boggs and the late Hale Boggs, both were members of Congress from Louisiana.