WASHINGTON -- At the G-8 conference in St. Petersburg, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emerged as President George W. Bush's new favorite among his fellow heads of government.
Bush still admires British Prime Minister Tony Blair, sympathizing with him for abuse over support of the war in Iraq. However, the president was impressed when the new German leader confronted and contradicted imperious French President Jacques Chirac.
At St. Petersburg, Bush displayed no affection for Chirac. But the president also indicated a low opinion of newly installed Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who defeated Bush favorite Silvio Berlusconi.
Hostility between the House's two top Democrats has reached the point where Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's aides whisper they would rather not regain the majority if it means Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi becoming speaker of the House.
Hoyer would not challenge Pelosi for speaker. But if Democrats fail to carry the House this year for the eighth straight election, there will be pressure on Hoyer to run against her for minority leader.
A footnote: Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a Pelosi ally, has announced he will run for majority leader against Hoyer if Democrats win control. Critics of Pelosi in the House Democratic caucus say Murtha is unsuited for nuts-and-bolts duties as majority leader but would make a good speaker.
TREASURY IN CHARGE
To demonstrate he is in charge, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson held his first weekly economic policy meeting at the Treasury instead of the White House, as was the case under his predecessor, John Snow.
Since most of the other participants are located at the White House, Paulson commented to a presidential aide that it would be more convenient to hold further meetings there. The second weekly meeting was held in the White House, but sources said Paulson will go back to the Treasury periodically. The Treasury building is a block from the White House on Pennsylvania Ave.
Former Wall Street titan Paulson has indicated he will be Bush's first Treasury chief to take charge of economic policy. So far, however, he has worked closely with National Economic Council Director Al Hubbard.
N.J. FOR GOP?
New Jersey, dominated by Democrats in recent elections, has become the best Republican prospect for winning a Democratic-held Senate seat this year. New polls last week indicated appointive Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez falling back to an even race with his Republican challenger, State Sen. Tom Kean Jr.