Robert Novak

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential stock is rising among her congressional colleagues in Washington, prominent liberal Democrats in her home base of New York City privately express the opinion that she has unsolved political problems.

These critics note that Clinton's negative national ratings remain high (around 45 percent). She also generated similarly low ratings for her Senate re-election bid in New York last year, but she won in a landslide against token Republican opposition. Clinton's performance in Iowa last week received poor reviews from liberals at home, who did not laugh at her little joke aimed at husband Bill Clinton when she was asked about her ability to handle "evil, bad men."

The most likely left-of-center alternative to Clinton, in New York as elsewhere, appears to be former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

Diplomat McCain

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has requested Sen. John McCain contact the Rev. Ian Paisley, the hard-line Protestant leader in Northern Ireland, to press him to discuss a power-sharing plan.

McCain, a leading prospect for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, has been increasingly active about Northern Ireland and has had contacts with Paisley. Since 2005, McCain has been actively engaged in promoting power sharing.

Paisley has told Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern that his party "will have nothing whatsoever to do" with a new special committee in the Irish Parliament to deal with issues concerning Northern Ireland.

Lobbyists for Rahm

A new, high-grade Democratic lobbying firm in Washington is sponsoring a top-dollar fund-raising breakfast for Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, Feb. 13 at the Phoenix Park Hotel on Capitol Hill.

The principal host is David W. Jones, who ran the extensive 2006 fund-raising campaign by Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. Jones and the other hosts listed on the invitation are all Democrats and former congressional staffers now associated with Capitol Counsel, a newly formed lobbyist firm unveiled after the 2006 election. They are Zahra Buck, Shannon Finley, James C. Gould, Daniel Papadopoulos and John D. Raffaelli.

The invitation to the 8:30 a.m. event appears to have been sent to names on the mailings by Rangel last year to get support for a Democratic-controlled House that made him Ways and Means Committee chairman. Recipients include Republican lobbyists who work on legislation at Ways and Means (which includes Emanuel as a member). The cost of attending: contributions ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 for Friends of Rahm Emanuel.

Bush on Vets

House Democratic leaders seeking to show that George W. Bush does not care about war veterans discovered that the president has not mentioned them in his last four State of the Union speeches, since U.S. troops intervened in Iraq.

The last Bush mention of vets in a State of the Union Address came in 2002, when he asked Congress "to approve an historic increase for veterans' health" -- a request followed by applause.

Bush's omissions irritate officials at the Veteran Administration, who take pride in advancements in veterans' health care in recent years.

Leaving D.C.

Republican hopes that Gil Gutknecht, who was upset for re-election in Minnesota last year after six terms in Congress, would try again were dashed this week when he quietly put his Capitol Hill condo up for sale at $229,000.

"The congressman is leaving it all, even the Select Comfort 'The Numbers Bed,'" said the Internet sales ad. It offers garage parking for an additional $30,000, claims the unit "gets tons of sun" and concludes: "Perfect for a Politician, Investor or 1st Time Homebuyer!"

Gutknecht, a member of the big Republican class of 1994, won his southern Minnesota district with over 60 percent of the vote in 2002 and 2004. He lost by 6 percentage points in 2006 to Democrat Tim Walz, a high school teacher making his first campaign for public office.


Robert Novak

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

 
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