Robert Novak

Even after Spencer's landslide primary win over McFarland on Sept. 12 eliminated the pretext for neutrality, big name New Yorker Republicans did not help. Rudy Giuliani, his former mayoral colleague, has not endorsed him (perhaps because Spencer, in a debate with McFarland, said Giuliani was too liberal for him to back as president). Spencer has been awaiting an endorsement from his old friend Gov. George Pataki (perhaps because in the same debate, Spencer said Pataki was not an "excellent" governor).

The worst news for Spencer after the primary came from Washington. The RNC said there was simply no money to spend against Clinton. The same was true of the NRSC, notwithstanding Sen. Dole's enthusiasm a year earlier. Seeking money outside official channels, Spencer's agents approached Washington fund-raising superstar Jack Oliver, who had brought in $1 billion all told for George W. Bush's political operation. But Oliver responded that he needed an endorsement from Pataki, who as of this writing has remained silent.

Nobody can really imagine John Spencer defeating Hillary Clinton no matter how much his party supports him. But with the creative political consultant and pollster John McLaughlin setting the strategy for the Republican long shot candidate, life could have been made uncomfortable for the taut-nerved senator and surely could have confined her to her home base.

It makes no difference to the Republican Party's national strategists that Spencer is a pro-life, pro-tax cut, pro-Bush Republican. The party establishment's course is to concentrate on incumbent Republicans with any chance to survive, even if they are apostates to the degree of Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who could not bring himself to vote for the president's re-election. The upshot boosts Mrs. Clinton's national aspirations.

Robert Novak

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

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