Inside Report: Sen. Smith told to move aside

Posted: Mar 31, 2001 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Well-placed Republicans are making an offer to Sen. Bob Smith they feel he should not refuse: Pull out of next year's GOP Senate primary in New Hampshire, and you will get a prestigious job in the Bush administration. Stay in the race, and you will be out of public life. Polls show New Hampshire's Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen trouncing Smith, who temporarily left the Republican Party during his failed campaign for president. State Republican leaders feel Shaheen would lose to 35-year-old Rep. John E. Sununu, son of the former governor. A Sununu-for-the-Senate operation surfaced recently when the congressman said he would not run for governor but was interested in the Senate, even if it meant a primary challenge against Smith. New Hampshire GOP strategists wanted to get that word out before Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and Sen. Bill Frist, chairman of the Senate campaign committee, pledged their support to Smith during visits to the state. BUSH-MCCAIN FEUD The festering feud between George W. Bush and John McCain has turned to unsubstantiated accusations that the White House is trying to drive business away from McCain adviser John Weaver. Politicians close to Sen. McCain claim the White House has asked Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama not to hire Weaver, Sessions's campaign manager in 1996, for his re-election next year. At stake, according to this report, was a still pending Sessions request for President Bush to visit Alabama this year. Sessions said he has not yet reached an arrangement with Weaver for 2002 but has not interviewed anybody else. "I would love for John Weaver to work for me," the senator told me, "no matter what George Bush thinks. But the president has not asked me not to hire him." Bush political strategist Karl Rove said he has not intervened against Weaver with Sessions and added that the president will go to Alabama. ENVIRONMENT VS. BUSH The Environmental Defense Fund, while trying to install one of its top staffers as an adviser to George W. Bush, has dispatched a fund-raising appeal attacking the president for "senseless" policies. The letter was signed by Fred Krupp, Environmental Defense's executive director, who last year advised candidate Bush on global warming. Krupp currently is close to placing his international counsel, Anne Petsonk, on the president's staff. That did not stop Krupp from assailing Bush in his money appeal. "With your immediate donation of $25 or more," he said, "we'll make it clear to the President that people all across America are deeply disappointed in his failure to take global warming seriously." He contended that the "President's continuing support for drilling for oil in the Arctic is senseless. So is the policy reversal on carbon dioxide." GOP BUDGET BLUES A senior White House aide was appalled when he learned that Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas were engaged in intense conversation over lunch Tuesday in a corner table of the senators' dining room. Jeffords, a liberal Republican, opposes President Bush's budget. With the Senate divided 50-50, Bush needs moderate Democrats like Lincoln to win. That's why their luncheon was bad news for the White House. A footnote: Senate GOP leaders are miffed by deviations from the party line by recently elected Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. They view him as even less dependable than his father, the late Sen. John Chafee. BUSH GOES POLITICAL President Bush is getting personally involved in trying to defeat two liberal Democratic senators next year in two predominantly conservative Republican states: South Dakota and Montana. On his recent trip to South Dakota, Bush talked to Rep. John Thune about challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson. Thune, who would rather run for governor, leads Johnson in private polls. On the president's flight to Montana, he privately discussed urging former Gov. Marc Raciot to oppose Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. Raciot would be heavily favored but is now working in a Washington law firm.