GOP disaster warning

Robert Novak
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Posted: Mar 19, 2005 12:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- Analysts at the Republican National Committee (RNC) have sent this warning to the House of Representatives: the party is in danger of losing 25 seats in the 2006 election and, therefore, of losing control of the House for the first time since the 1994 election.
 
Although some Republicans on Capitol Hill believe the RNC is just trying to frighten them, concern about keeping the present 232 to 202 edge pervades GOP ranks. The second mid-term election of an eight-year presidency often produces heavy congressional losses for the party in power.

 A footnote: Rep. Christopher Shays, re-elected from his Connecticut district last year with 52 percent, is considered by colleagues as the most vulnerable Republican incumbent. Other especially shaky GOP House members include Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania and Rob Simmons of Connecticut.

IRRITATED LOBBYISTS

 Lobbyists who had just dug deep for a fund-raiser by Rep. Rob Portman were unhappy Thursday when they learned of his surprise nomination by President Bush as U.S. trade representative.

 Portman held a massive $2,500-a-ticket fund-raiser March 8 at the Jones Day law firm building on Capitol Hill. He also was selling tickets for a New York fund-raiser scheduled for Monday in the Sky Club of the Metropolitan Life building. Portman's Cincinnati district is safely Republican, but he has distributed funds to other House members.

 Contributors grumbled that they wrote checks to Portman when he was chairman of the House Republican leadership and a key member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Now, they said, he is just another bureaucrat. When they learned of his appointment, several asked Portman to return their money.

IRRITATED JAPANESE

 Although President Bush's selection of Robert Zoellick as deputy secretary of state was praised by most U.S. allies, it did not make Japan happy.

 Japanese diplomats view Zoellick as "anti-Japanese" because of his positions on problems involving U.S.-Japan trade. In particular, they do not like his record on U.S. beef exports to Japan. 

 A footnote: Japanese diplomats are also less than thrilled by Tom Schieffer, Bush's friend and former partner in owning the Texas Rangers baseball team, as U.S. ambassador in Tokyo. They complain that Schieffer, currently ambassador to Australia, breaks a succession of distinguished elder statesmen sent to Japan as ambassador (Mike Mansfield, Walter Mondale, Tom Foley and Howard Baker).
 
LEFTIST LOBBYING

 America Coming Together (ACT), which has been bankrolled by leftist financier George Soros, is targeting the Staten Island congressional district in New York City in an attempt to pressure its Republican representative, Rep. Vito Fossella, into opposing President Bush's Social Security proposal.

 ACT is not only passing out leaflets to passengers on the Staten Island Ferry but also elsewhere in the New York metropolitan area. Its operatives are going door-to-door in Staten Island, Long Island and Westchester. The organization plans phone bank activity for two weeks (including Easter Sunday) to area residents from the United Federation of Teachers building in downtown Manhattan.

 With Soros providing the financing, ACT last year worked against George W. Bush's re-election campaign in Michigan, Ohio and other swing states. Its current campaign maintains pressure on the president, attempting to "shatter the illusion of a Bush mandate once and for all."

RATHER MONEY

 Rep. Tom Feeney, a second-term congressman from Florida, celebrated Dan Rather's last night as "CBS Evening News" anchor by conducting a fund-raiser on his own behalf while the anchorman's finale was on the air.

 The $100-a-ticket event was hastily arranged at the Republicans-only Capitol Hill Club. It raised about $5,000 -- not bad for something put together on short notice. The invitation for a "real celebration" to mark Rather's departure declared: "Feeney house rule: You can only drink with your left hand."

 Feeney attracted national attention as speaker of the Florida House during his state's 2000 vote recount. In Congress, he served as assistant whip for his freshman class in 2003-2004.