Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Elizabeth Dole, the Senate Republican campaign chairman, has assigned fellow Republicans to defend Sen. Rick Santorum from increasingly harsh Democratic attacks on the floor as he faces a tough re-election in Pennsylvania.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy have led political attacks on Santorum that formerly would not have been possible in a less combative Senate. Sen. Hillary Clinton has sniped at Santorum's new book, "It Takes a Family."

 Although Santorum is third ranking in the party's Senate hierarchy as Republican Conference chairman, his colleagues have not risen to support him. Under Dole's plan, a designated Republican senator will take the floor in Santorum's defense whenever needed.


 Prominent Democratic strategists in Illinois believe Republicans can open the Democratic-controlled state to serious competition in 2008 if former Republican Gov. Jim Edgar makes a comeback against Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's re-election.

 Although Blagojevich's poll ratings are down, the moderate Edgar is seen in Democratic circles as the only Republican who could win for governor. Beyond the governorship, Democrats see Edgar reviving Republicans for 2008 in the Chicago suburbs. Democratic suburban growth has paced the party's current domination of Illinois.

 Edgar as governor, according to this theory, would not only put Illinois in play for the presidential election but also endanger 2008 re-election prospects for Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin.


 Rep. Peter King of New York, named by Republican leaders to become the House Homeland Security Committee's chairman, was not pressed to explain two decades of support for the terrorist Irish Republican Army (IRA) and association with the left-wing Sinn Fein, the IRA's political arm.

 King is the only member of Congress in at least five years to travel at Sinn Fein's expense, taking such trips to Ireland in 2000 and 2001. King's pro-IRA posture goes back to 1986. President Reagan declared that Irish-Americans condemn the IRA, and King responded: "When Reagan went to Ireland, he might have spoken for some Irish-Americans. But he didn't speak for me." The 2005 State Department report lists the IRA among terrorist organizations.

 "There is no comparison between the IRA and al Qaeda," King told this column in defending his suitability for the Homeland Security chairmanship. He contended the IRA "didn't target civilians, although civilians were killed in attacks." He also said he dealt with Sinn Fein, not the IRA, and that he had called for the IRA to disband.

Robert Novak

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

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