Picking Sununu

Posted: Apr 20, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott and four other senior Republican senators headed a fund-raiser at La Colline restaurant on Capitol Hill last Wednesday night for Rep. John E. Sununu's campaign against Sen. Bob Smith in the New Hampshire Republican primary. Joining Lott were Sens. Richard Shelby of Alabama, Ted Stevens of Alaska, Kit Bond of Missouri and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. For even one colleague of the same party to oppose a fellow incumbent is extraordinary, but for so many high-ranking senators to join in is without precedent. Smith has not been forgiven for his brief departure from the GOP in 1999-2000. He also is viewed as a probable loser in November who would give up one seat in the close battle for control of the Senate. A poll taken late last month had Sununu leading Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, the Democratic candidate for the Senate, by four percentage points, with Smith trailing her by nine points. A more recent Republican primary poll showed Sununu at 51 percent, Smith 33 percent. GREEN POWER The abysmal performance in the Senate by advocates of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is attributed to the political sophistication and lobbying prowess of the environmentalist lobby. Undecided senators from both parties have been targeted with an onslaught of communications from constituents protesting any new drilling in Alaska. Republican backers of the proposal ruefully concede that green political power now trumps the efforts of blue-collar unions who back ANWR drilling. A footnote: Environmental representatives debated labor operatives in a closed-door caucus of Democratic senators several weeks ago. Several senators later grumbled that organized labor had pressed the issue, forcing them to choose between the two pressure groups. REJECTING A CARDINAL Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Roman Catholic archbishop of Washington, D.C., was rejected by his fellow American cardinals when he privately called for creation of a laymen's advisory group on the crisis caused by priestly sex abuse. McCarrick may try again when he and his colleagues meet at the Vatican this coming week after being summoned by Pope John Paul II. McCarrick was ahead of most of the American hierarchy in expressing remorse over the scandals. The need for outside advice on the church's problems is widely supported among the Catholic laity but so far has been resisted by most American bishops. SELF-INVITED GREENSPAN When Alan Greenspan made a rare appearance last Wednesday testifying before the Senate-House Economic Committee, the Federal Reserve chairman was a self-invited witness. Greenspan has a standing invitation from the committee, which is a study group that considers no legislation. So, when his office called Capitol Hill to ask for an appearance, it was clear the chairman had something important to say. Partially hidden beneath Greenspan's dense rhetoric, his message was clear. He testified that the country's economic recovery was "gradual" and did not justify a pre-emptive interest-rate increase. That reflected the bearish reports from business leaders received in private by the Fed. ANOTHER GOP CHAIRMAN? Sources close to Republican National Chairman Marc Racicot say he is not inclined to seek a full-term as party leader next January, but the White House expects him to stay in the job. If Racicot drops out, that would mean four chairmen of the Republican National Committee (RNC) in four years. James Nicholson (now U.S. ambassador to the Vatican) finished a successful four-year run in the chairmanship in 2001 to be replaced by then Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore. After an unhappy one-year stint, Gilmore resigned late last year to be replaced by former Montana Gov. Racicot. A footnote: When Racicot is not on the road, he is usually found at his Washington law firm rather than at Republican national headquarters. The RNC waived its requirement for a full-time chairman, but Racicot pledged to discontinue lobbying while he holds the party post.