Disappointed Torch

Posted: Oct 05, 2002 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Robert Torricelli protested to the bitter end over the selection of his longtime intraparty enemy, former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, to replace him as Democratic candidate on the New Jersey ballot. He vowed to keep his $7 million war chest out of Lautenberg's hands. Torricelli was only slightly less hostile to Rep. Robert Menendez, who New Jersey Democratic leaders preferred to Lautenberg but decided to stay in the House. When Menendez showed interest in running for the Senate in 2000, he was opposed by Torricelli. A footnote: The choice of the Senate Democratic leadership to replace Torricelli was former Sen. Bill Bradley. Although Bradley is widely reported as rejecting the candidacy out of hand, Democratic sources said he was open to negotiations about his future role in the Senate. GIVING UP CALIFORNIA President Bush has no plans to visit California before the Nov. 5 election to try to breathe life into businessman Bill Simon's failing Republican campaign for governor. Private polls show that Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and Simon are equally distrusted by Californians but that the neophyte Republican candidate trails his experienced opponent by 10 percentage points. According to the same survey, Bush enjoys 69 percent approval in the state that he lost by 12 points in 2000. It also shows he would defeat Al Gore by 10 points there if the election were held today. While the White House is giving up on the 2002 governorship, it has high hopes for carrying California in 2004. White House political director Ken Mehlman and Deputy Republican National Chairman Jack Oliver traveled to the state this week to confer with the president's supporters. DASCHLE'S VETO White House negotiations for a long-stalled bill that would permit new construction by underwriting insurance against terrorism came to a stop over punitive damages awarded in lawsuits. Nicholas Calio, President Bush's liaison with Congress, met privately this week with two key Democrats on the Senate Banking Committee: Chairman Paul Sarbanes and Sen. Christopher Dodd, a champion of insurance interests in his home state of Connecticut. They were making good progress, until punitive damages came up. At that point, the senators informed Calio: You will have to take that up with Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle's staff. Politically potent trial lawyers, supported by Daschle, have insisted that no limit be put on punitive damages. A discouraged Calio returned to the White House. TRENT LOTT'S RE-ELECTION Sen. Trent Lott disregarded senatorial travel schedules when his staff let out the word that he plans to hold the Senate Republican leadership's election in mid-November instead of early December as scheduled, a change that might make it harder to replace him as Senate Republican leader. The problem is that two major congressional overseas trips conflict with Lott's new election date of Nov. 18. At that time, several senators are planning to attend the NATO meeting bringing in new members of the alliance, and the powerful Sen. Ted Stevens is taking fellow appropriators on a global inspection trip. An earlier election date would give Sen. Don Nickles, now the deputy majority leader, less time to mount a challenge against Lott. DOLLARS FOR LIDDY The most expensive of the many mid-October campaign fund-raising events in Washington takes place Wednesday with a soft-money reception and dinner to finance the North Carolina Senate candidacy of Republican Elizabeth Dole. The minimum price of admission per person for Dole is $5,000. A $50,000 check is needed to become a "chairman" of the event and $25,000 to be a "co-chairman." It takes place at the luxurious Georgetown home of Boyden Gray, a native North Carolinian who was the first President Bush's White House counsel. Actually, only $16,000 of a $50,000 contribution would finance the Dole campaign, with the remaining $34,000 going to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The polls show Dole, a two-time Cabinet member, running far ahead of the Democratic nominee, Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.