Danger for Daschle

Robert Novak
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Posted: Jun 05, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Democratic joy over the special election victory of 33-year-old Stephanie Herseth for South Dakota's House seat was diminished by the danger this poses to re-election of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
 
Herseth's election gives predominantly Republican South Dakota an all-Democratic delegation in Congress (both senators and the only House member). Consequently, even Democrats in Washington speculate that the state's voters are unlikely to elect both Herseth and Daschle this year. Daschle could fall victim to a spirited Republican campaign by former Rep. John Thune.

 While House Republican leaders believe Herseth is beatable Nov. 2 for the full term, they privately say they would sacrifice one House seat to get rid of Daschle.

RAPPING NANCY

 Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi got very poor reviews from her fellow House Democrats for last Sunday's performance on NBC's "Meet the Press," where she seemed continuously ill at ease.

 Pelosi appeared to wilt under Tim Russert's stern interrogation about her recent comments on Iraq. In response to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay attacking her criticism of President Bush's Iraq policy, she embarrassed Democrats by praising herself: "I made that statement that I did, and I think with great courage, if I might say about myself, because I am worried about the troops on the ground in Iraq or wherever our troops serve."

 House Democrats generally feel Pelosi compares unfavorably with her rival within the party caucus, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. Nevertheless, Democrats waging an uphill battle to regain control of the House stress that their return to power would mean the first female speaker of the House.

PROSECUTING THE GOP

 U.S. Attorney David Kelley of New York City, who has concentrated on prosecuting rich white-collar criminals, has been assigned to investigate the young Republican aide accused of reading confidential Democratic communications.

 Manuel Miranda, who formerly advised Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist on judicial confirmations, was fired after he uncovered Democratic plans to scuttle President Bush's nominations. Sen. Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Frist refused to support Miranda.

 Miranda, a young father and husband, is currently unemployed. While many conservatives consider him a hero for uncovering the plans revolving around Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Miranda now could face criminal prosecution.

HOLLYWOOD'S CAUTION

 Washington sources who are well connected to Hollywood say the movie industry is now inclined to await the results of the presidential election before naming a successor to 82-year-old Jack Valenti as its multi-million-dollar-a-year lobbyist in the capital.

 The consensus in the lobbyist community that Sen. John Kerry is the probable winner over President Bush has led Hollywood studio heads to wait and see who will control the White House and Congress next year. That caution appears to ignore the fact that Democrat Valenti, a former aide to President Lyndon Johnson, for 38 years has functioned well as head of the Motion Picture Association of America with both Republican and Democratic presidents.

 The leading contenders talked about are Republican Victoria Clarke, former press aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Democrat Daniel Glickman, former secretary of Agriculture. A late dark horse is Republican Fred Thompson, a former senator from Tennessee who has close ties to Hollywood as an actor.

IN ARNOLD'S WAKE

 Beleaguered California Republicans, buoyed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's rising popularity, are reporting to party leaders in Washington that they are optimistic about major 2006 electoral gains in the state legislature.

 That cheery prospect, however, depends on Schwarzenegger running for a full term in 2006. In 2004, Republicans hope the governor's strong endorsement will boost Republican former Secretary of State Bill Jones in an uphill race against Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. But even the governor's popularity has not created any optimism about President Bush's chances in California this year against Sen. John Kerry.

 Republican hopes for 2006 in California are also expanded by an expected ballot proposition to set state spending caps.