Wednesday, August 30, 2006
GOP can't woo top candidates
Not to drive people away I won't add the link to Kathy Harris site. Print Story: Republicans fail to woo top candidates on Yahoo! News Republicans fail to woo top candidates By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent2 hours, 35 minutes ago Click on Katherine Harris' Senate campaign Web site and look for the blog. "This section will be updated soon," reads a message — dated May 29. A Web site 100 days out of date is hardly the worst of it for Harris, whose political wounds, many of them self-inflicted, make her the poster woman for Senate Republican recruiting woes. Missed opportunities, stumbles and bad breaks in a half-dozen states or more in 2005 have tilted the map toward the Democrats in ways that are still unfolding. "In every single state where they were challenging one of our incumbents they did not get their first choice and in many cases they did not get their second," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, head of the Democratic campaign committee. As a result, he said, "we can spend our time and money challenging their incumbents." Apart from Florida, Republicans failed to get their preferred recruits in North Dakota, a heavily Republican state, as well as Washington, Nebraska, Michigan, West Virginia and Vermont. Several GOP officials concede the party's prospects are hampered as a result. They spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid open criticism of North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who chairs their campaign committee. Brian Nick, a committee spokesman, conceded failures in North Dakota and especially in Florida, where Dole tried repeatedly to persuade others to join the race. "We felt that was a state we could put in play and obviously that race hasn't become competitive and we've moved on to other endeavors," he said. Overall, he said, "Recruiting for Republicans has been very successful," with strong challengers for Democratic-held seats in New Jersey, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska and Washington. Public and private polls show Democrats winning in each, handily in some. On the eve of the traditional Labor Day kickoff to the fall campaign, Democrats appear poised to gain seats, although picking up the six they need for a majority remains a significant challenge. Recruiting is influenced by the "larger political environment," said Jim Jordan, former executive director of the Democratic senatorial committee. "Attractive Republican candidates likely chose not to run this cycle because the political winds were against them." Polls show President Bush's popularity down, the war in Iraq is unpopular and the Republican-controlled Congress is viewed with dissatisfaction. The Democrats, with $37.7 million in the bank as of June 30, to $19.8 million for the Republicans, hope to use their financial advantage to exploit Republican recruiting shortcomings. As an example, they plan to take money they might have needed to help Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record) in Florida can now go to elsewhere. Obvious possibilities are competitive races for Republican-held seats in states like Ohio, Missouri or Tennessee — or perhaps more challenging races in Virginia and Arizona. Ironically, Republicans might benefit in an odd way from Harris' woes. The party has made it clear it has no plans to spend its own money on her behalf, so it, too, can spend money elsewhere. Democrats have recruiting difficulties of their own. They have little hope of winning a Nevada seat after failing to persuade Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman to run. But Republican problems are widespread. Rep. Candice Miller (news, bio, voting record) declined to run in Michigan. Likewise Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (news, bio, voting record) in West Virginia. In heavily Republican North Dakota, Gov. John Hoeven spurned an appeal from White House political strategist Karl Rove to challenge Sen. Kent Conrad (news, bio, voting record). Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas declined to run in Vermont after Sen. Jim Jeffords announced his retirement. In Nebraska, which customarily favors the GOP, former Gov. Mike Johanns became agriculture secretary rather than challenge Sen. Ben Nelson (news, bio, voting record). Dino Rossi declined to run in Washington after losing a gubernatorial race in a 2004 recount. Republicans fielded candidates in each case, and say wealthy challengers Pete Ricketts in Nebraska and Mike McGavick in Washington are running particularly well for Democratic seats. Not so in Connecticut. There, the White House declined to endorse Republican Alan Schlesinger in a state where the Democrats are deeply divided between incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman and Ned Lamont, who defeated him in a primary on an anti-war platform. Harris, a second-term member of the House, was the most eager of candidates. As one of the Republican heroines of the presidential recount battle of 2000, she initially wanted to run for the Senate in 2004. Party officials persuaded her to stand down. They feared that while she might win the primary, she was too divisive a candidate to carry the state, and might hamper Bush's re-election prospects. Last year, Republican strategists presented Harris with a party-paid poll last year that showed she was virtually certain to lose if she ran in 2006, officials said. Undeterred, she's gone ahead, with chaotic results so far. She's had four campaign managers, and some former aides describe a woman given to temper tantrums. In a sign of organizational shortcomings, her office phone was answered by a professional answering service one recent Sunday, less than a month before the primary. Former staff say she didn't tell them about receiving a subpoena from the Justice Department as part of a federal investigation. Then there's the controversy stirred by her comments. Recently she told Florida Baptist Witness, the weekly journal of the Florida Baptist State Convention, that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the Founding Fathers did not intend the country to be "a nation of secular laws." In a state with millions of Jewish voters, the campaign backpedaled. Campaign manager Bryan Rudnick said that as a grandson of Holocaust survivors, he knew that Harris "encourages people of all faiths to engage in government so that our country can continue to thrive." Despite numerous entreaties from Republicans, Harris has passed up numerous invitations to quit. "Katherine Harris is the only Republican candidate with a proven record of leadership and accomplishments that can beat Bill Nelson," said spokeswoman Jennifer Marks. "Our campaign is aggressively moving forward."