Santorum Defense League

Robert Novak
Posted: Sep 17, 2005 12:00 AM

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.


 Ex-Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh launched a vigorous campaign to get his college chum Mike Brown named as his replacement heading the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) after he was denied nomination as the first secretary of Homeland Security and started his own company, dependent on government contracts.

 The replacement of Brown at FEMA last week by R. David Paulison, a career emergency response worker, raised the question of why such a professional was not named to replace Allbaugh in 2003. The answer was that Allbaugh insisted on Brown, a lawyer without emergency experience.

 A footnote: In President Bush's 2000 campaign, Allbaugh was the nuts-and-bolts manager while Karl Rove handled broad strategy. According to administration sources, Allbaugh pressed in 2002 to be Homeland Security secretary but was vetoed by Rove.


 According to Senate sources, Democratic Leader Harry Reid has informed Majority Leader Bill Frist that Federal Appeals Court Judge Priscilla Owen will be filibustered if President Bush names her to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court.

 Republican senators are divided on whether former Texas Supreme Court Justice Owen is vulnerable because she underwent a filibuster for the appellate seat and was confirmed under the compromise agreement. Frist is known to believe Owen can be confirmed in the face of a filibuster.

 Republican Senate strategists believe Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the only possible Bush nominee to replace O'Connor who would not face a filibuster.