Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- On the morning after Sen. John Kerry's victory in the New Hampshire presidential primary, several high-level Republican operatives conferred over the telephone in a worried mood.

They were concerned that Kerry, as the presumptive nominee for the Democrats, poses a much more formidable challenge to President George W. Bush's re-election than previous front-runner Howard Dean did. Their fear is that the Massachusetts senator's skillful campaign is presenting him to the nation as a centrist and moderate.

During the conference call, the suggestion was made that Kerry's liberal voting record in the Senate should be emphasized by Republicans. But others involved in the discussion disagreed, contending that voters were interested in the present rather than past history.

ASKING FOR A VETO

Prominent Republicans in Congress are personally asking President Bush to pick out a piece of spending legislation and veto it, to show his conservative base that he means business about cutting government outlays.

Bush, who has not vetoed any legislation during more than three years as president, has made no commitment. His core supporters have grown restive over the steady rise of government spending.

Conservatives were especially angered by Bush's declaration in his State of the Union address that discretionary federal spending would rise at an annual rate of 4 percent. After the adverse reaction to that, the White House sent word to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to hold the increase to 1 percent, a figure that will be reflected in the new budget being released this week.

HOLLYWOOD'S LOBBYIST

Spurned by Republican Rep. Billy Tauzin, Hollywood may turn to a fellow Louisianan -- retiring Democratic Sen. John Breaux -- as its principal lobbyist in Washington.

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is seeking a replacement for Jack Valenti, a Democrat who at age 83 is retiring after heading the organization for 38 years. The movie industry thought it had recruited Tauzin, a 12-term former Democrat, for its $1 million-plus a year job. However, Tauzin chose an even more lucrative offer to lobby for the pharmaceutical industry.

With the congressional GOP leadership pressuring business to hire Republicans as their chief lobbyists, the MPAA preferred Republican Tauzin. But Democrat Breaux is an ideological moderate with friends on both sides of the aisle.

GUESSING WRONG


Robert Novak

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

 
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