Here comes Obama

Robert Novak

12/16/2006 12:01:00 AM - Robert Novak

A prominent Republican pollster's national survey of Democratic voters shows support stalled for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton while Sen. Barack Obama has come from nowhere and now looks like her only serious contender for the 2008 presidential nomination.

Polltaker John McLaughlin, questioning voters on Election Day in both 2004 and 2006, showed undecided Democrats declining from 35 percent to 24 percent but Clinton's support unchanged at 27 percent. Sen. John Kerry, runner-up at 16 percent two years ago, slipped to 8 percent. Obama, at 2 percent in 2004, soared to 21 percent.

A footnote: McLaughlin, in polls of Republicans, found Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani had changed positions. Giuliani led McCain by 12 percentage points in 2004 but trailed by eight in 2006.

MCCAIN'S SLEDGEHAMMER

John Weaver, Sen. John McCain's political adviser, surprised others in the McCain operation with a vituperative attack on anti-tax activist Grover Norquist for claiming that the senator had reached out to end their long feud.

These colleagues support Weaver's assertion that Norquist was not telling the truth, but question the language used. "I think [Norquist is] just lonely with [disgraced lobbyist] Jack Abramoff gone to prison," Weaver told the Roll Call newspaper. "I think he's probably just sad and lonely and delusional. . . . Only when he has pimped himself enough with reporters does his name even come up."

One McCain adviser called Weaver "the sledgehammer in McCain's golf bag." Advising McCain in 2000, Weaver railed against social conservatives and feuded with Bush adviser Karl Rove. Weaver announced early in 2001 that he had become a Democrat, but he returned to McCain for the 2008 campaign.

ROMNEY ON GAYS

On the same day that social conservative Tony Perkins expressed concern about Mitt Romney's 12-year-old support for homosexual rights, a letter containing Perkins's signature was sent to the Massachusetts governor praising his opposition to single-sex marriages.

Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was listed on the Dec. 8 letter to Romney thanking him for "passionate and continued support of traditional marriage." When he signed that, Perkins was not aware of an Oct. 6, 1994, letter by Romney that would be published in The New York Times the next day.

On Dec. 8, Perkins responded to a request for comment on the 1994 letter from Senate candidate Romney to gay Republicans (the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts). Romney promised to be "more effective" than his opponent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, in achieving "full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens." Perkins's comment the next day in the Times: "This is quite disturbing."

TONY SNOW SPEAKING

Tony Snow, the first White House press secretary to deliver campaign fund-raising speeches, will go on the 2007 Republican circuit making speeches at Lincoln Day dinners.

Snow never had delivered a political speech prior to the 2006 campaign, but proved one of the most attractive Republican speakers in the country. He gave his speeches without a written text.

A former newspaper editor, columnist and radio-television commentator, Snow was a speechwriter and policy aide to President George H.W. Bush in 1991-92.

BORDER POLITICS

The loss Tuesday of the 30th Republican House seat, representing a U.S.-Mexican border district in Texas, marked another political failure of hard-line immigration policies.

Immigration was not the central issue when Democratic former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez upset seven-term Rep. Henry Bonilla, a rare Latino Republican in Congress. Bonilla, who supported a border fence while Rodriguez did not, lost border counties he previously had carried. He won Maverick County, 95 percent Hispanic, with 59 percent in 2004 but lost it with just 14 percent Tuesday.

A footnote: Six-term Rep. J.D. Hayworth lost in Arizona after stressing immigration. Randy Graf lost an Arizona border district where he made immigration his major issue. Six-term Rep. John Hostettler, chairman of a House immigration subcommittee, lost his Indiana district despite stressing his opponent's softness on the issue.