Robert Novak

 While Republicans claim they are targeting Democratic Sen. Robert C. Byrd for re-election to a ninth term in West Virginia next year, GOP strategists actually regard the Senate's senior member as unbeatable and don't want to waste a serious candidate against him.

 Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, 53, has been talked about as an effective Republican challenger against the 87-year-old Byrd. However, national party leaders feel she would face an uphill battle. Even if Byrd has seemed more partisan and more eccentric recently, he is considered unbeatable in West Virginia with so many public works in the state named after him.

 Republican leaders worry that if Capito ran against Byrd, she not only would be likely to be defeated for the Senate but probably would also lose her former House seat to a Democrat. Capito is the first Republican elected to Congress from West Virginia since 1980.


 Embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff's spokesman has sent the Jewish Forward an e-mail denying a Newsweek report that quoted him as saying House Majority Leader Tom DeLay "knew everything" about an alleged fraud involving fees paid by Indian tribes.

 Abramoff also claimed that the unnamed luncheon companion quoted by Newsweek "has flatly denied ever stating that Mr. Abramoff said these things." An orthodox Jew, Abramoff sent the denial only to the Jewish Forward.


 This column last weekend listed Democratic Rep. Rahm Emanuel of Illinois among "those going to Rome" for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. Emanuel, a non-Catholic, told me he gave up his seat to permit a Catholic member of Congress to make the trip.

Robert Novak

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

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