MoveOn's backfire

Robert Novak
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Posted: Nov 06, 2004 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Only four of the 26 Democratic challengers for Congress and governorships endorsed and bankrolled by the left-wing MoveOn PAC were elected Tuesday, but some suffered from that organization's support.

 In Arizona, former Flagstaff Mayor Paul Babbitt was embarrassed before his rural constituents in his campaign for Congress when Republican Rep. Rick Renzi mentioned MoveOn's endorsement of Babbitt. Renzi had been considered one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents but won easily with 59 percent of the vote.

 In Minnesota, missing children's advocate Patty Wetterling's campaign for Congress suffered when Republican ads attacked her for accepting MoveOn's endorsement and cash. Republican Rep. Mark Kennedy was re-elected with 54 percent.

BUSH REACHES OUT

 One of the first telephone calls placed by President Bush Wednesday morning after his re-election was to Sen. Harry Reid, the prospective new Senate Democratic leader replacing the defeated Tom Daschle.

 Reid, re-elected to the Senate in Nevada by a landslide Tuesday while Daschle lost narrowly in South Dakota, is more ideologically moderate than his predecessor. Consequently, Bush hopes to lessen the combative relationship with Senate Democrats during his second term.

 Reid, currently assistant minority leader, quickly collected endorsements to replace Daschle from at least 32 of the 44 Democrats elected to the next Congress. His possible opponent, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, would have experienced difficulty winning support beyond other Northeastern liberals and instead endorsed Reid.

BAYH FOR PRESIDENT?

 Democratic strategists, seeking a more moderate candidate for president in 2008 and unable to find a Southern governor resembling Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, may go to the Midwest instead for Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana.

 Bayh, 48, was re-elected to a second term in a landslide Tuesday while President Bush carried the state easily and Bush's former OMB director, Mitch Daniels, was elected governor. Bayh's lifetime voting record measured by the American Conservative Union is 22 percent, high for a Democrat.

 A footnote: The Democrat most clearly making himself available for 2008 at this early date is New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson. He is a former member of Congress who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of Energy under President Clinton.

SPECTER FOR CHAIRMAN?

 Sen. Arlen Specter's victory comments Wednesday after his re-election in Pennsylvania could cause him trouble in achieving his long sought goal of the Senate Judiciary Committee chairmanship.

 Specter warned President Bush not to nominate anybody for the Supreme Court who would try to overturn Roe v. Wade or other abortion rights rulings. Such a nominee, he suggested, would encounter a filibuster. Bush campaigned hard for Specter this year when he faced a serious conservative challenge in the Republican primary. In the general election campaign, Specter declined to support two Republican congressional candidates who lost their races.

 With Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah forced to step down as Judiciary chairman because of term limits, Specter is next in line by virtue of seniority. However, he could be denied that post by a vote of his Republican colleagues, and several said he will be asked to commit himself to support Bush's judicial nominees.

MOVING RIGHT

 While Republicans apparently gained a net three seats in the House of Representatives, the party's ideological shift toward the right there was more pronounced.

 Two House members with the most liberal Republican voting records have retired. Jack Quinn of New York, who generally voted with organized labor, appears to have been replaced by a Democrat in his Buffalo area district. Jim Greenwood of Pennsylvania, the House's strongest pro-choice Republican, was replaced in his Bucks County district by the more conservative County Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick.

 Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Ted Poe of Texas head a new infusion of House Republican conservatives. Jeff Fortenberry of Nebraska is seen as a pro-life hero. Other incoming strong conservatives are Lynn Westmoreland of Georgia, Geoff Davis of Kentucky, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Michael McCaul of Texas.