Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- When Vice President Dick Cheney was asked in a recent taped television interview what has "best prepared you for where you are now," he quickly replied that it was working for Gerald Ford and Donald Rumsfeld.

"(President) Jerry Ford gave me the opportunity at 34 to run the White House (as chief of staff)," Cheney told columnist-commentator Armstrong Williams. He added: "Don Rumsfeld (as Nixon administration anti-poverty chief) taking me under his wing when I was a green would-be academic, 27 years old, when I first arrived in Washington, and teaching me (as his chief of staff) a great deal about how this city works, about how politics work."

A footnote: Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld are close allies in the Bush administration, often aligned against Secretary of State Colin Powell.

CALIFORNIA SOUNDINGS

A private statewide survey by pollster Jim Moore portrays California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger flying high but President George W. Bush still facing trouble in the Golden State.

The survey shows only 17 percent unfavorable for Schwarzenegger against 43 percent favorable, with 40 percent stating no opinion. Bush recorded 43 percent favorable, 50 percent unfavorable (in interviews before the capture of Saddam Hussein).

A footnote: State Attorney General Bill Lockyer, who came under fire for announcing his vote for Schwarzenegger in the recall election, led Democratic prospects for governor in 2006 with 35 percent favorable, 15 percent unfavorable. State Treasurer Phil Angelides, who has been assailing Schwarzenegger, was 28 percent favorable, 20 percent unfavorable. Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, who ran against Schwarzenegger Oct. 7, is California's most unpopular politician at 54 percent unfavorable, 32 percent favorable.

SENATE TEST

When the Senate reconvenes Jan. 20, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist will call a risky cloture vote on the House-passed omnibus appropriations bill providing funds for 11 government departments.

Frist is betting that earmarked money for special projects in the states of individual senators will get him the 60 votes necessary for cloture in the 100-member Senate. However, Republican Sen. John McCain and other foes of congressional "pork" will oppose cloture in an effort to improve the bill. The deadline for renewal of spending authorization is Jan. 27.

A footnote: Senate Republican leaders are trying to revive the House-passed energy bill, also branded by McCain as pork-filled. A Senate cloture attempt failed before Congress quit for the year.

DEMONIZING ASHCROFT

Two days before Christmas, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan opened a national Democratic campaign for 2004 accusing Attorney General John Ashcroft of racial disenfranchisement in the Texas congressional redistricting case.

Conyers, an African American leader who is senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a Dec. 23 letter to Ashcroft. He demanded that Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials appointed by President Bush withdraw from the Texas case. Refusal to do so, said Conyers, "has placed both the reputation of the Justice Department and the Voting Rights Act in jeopardy."

The racial disenfranchisement accusation is based on Democratic claims that the Republican-drafted Texas redistricting packs minorities into as few congressional districts as possible. It follows continuing Democratic complaints of racism behind the 2000 Florida vote controversy.

WHO WINS LOUISIANA?

Although Sen. John Breaux is spreading the word he never would have stepped away from seeking a fourth term in 2004 unless he were certain a Democrat would succeed him, national Democratic operatives are not so sure of winning.

Breaux's optimism is based largely on the failure of Republicans ever to elect a senator from Louisiana in an open election. His handpicked successor is Rep. Chris John, a Breaux protege who is slightly more conservative than the moderate liberal senator.

However, the last two election triumphs of Democrat Mary Landrieu for Louisiana's other Senate seat were very close. The designated Republican nominee for 2004, Rep. David Vitter, appears to be much stronger than the two candidates defeated by Landrieu. One Democratic rating organization privately classifies the seat as "leaning Republican."


Robert Novak

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

 
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