Washington Prowler

Back in Play

AG Gonzales tries to be ready. Romney's prayer breakfast presence. Marty Meehan smoothes his succession. Lynn Swann regroups.

By 4.16.07

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PREP TALK
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, and word out of the Department of Justice is that Gonzales has been working tirelessly on preparations for the hearing. Further word: those sessions have not been going well.

"They remind me of the Harriet Miers prep sessions," says a DOJ insider knowledgeable about both sets of prep sessions. "We're concerned about 'gotcha' questions, and there are just too many of them to go over at this stage of the game."

BREAKING FAST
Tagg Romney, the eldest son of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was given a prime seat at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington last week, sitting at a table with Chief Justice John Roberts. Joining "Tagg" were a Romney fundraiser, as well as the campaign's Catholic outreach director.

How did the son of the moderate from Massachusetts, who last week claimed he had little input on what his campaign only two months ago was calling the Romney Massachusetts Health Care Reform Plan (which kept in place state-funding for abortions), get such prime sitting? "We have a supporter who helped do the seating, and he made sure we got what we wanted," says a campaign insider. "At one time we wanted the governor to be there, but we pulled back from that."

It was announced ten days ago that Romney would in fact be at the breakfast, but then the campaign quickly pulled back. One reason? Concern that Flip the Dolphin might show up. The walking, talking six-foot dolphin has made the Romney campaign's life an aquatic nightmare, reminding the media and supporters of the candidate's all too well-known flip-flops.

POLITICAL FOOTBALL
In Massachusetts politics, it's all about king-making and less than sincere posturing. Just days after announcing his retirement last month, Rep. Marty Meehan declared that he could not endorse any of the Democrats interested in filling his seat (he feels his role as chancellor of a UMass campus rules that out), his wife, Ellen, endorsed Niki Tsongas (D), the widow of former senator Paul Tsongas, and further announced that she would chair her campaign.

Mrs. Meehan denied that her involvement was a tacit endorsement by her husband. And then she added that -- surprise -- the Meehans were looking into whether any of the more than $5 million in the congressman's campaign war chest could be used to "defray" costs of the special election.

Republicans are looking to two well-known locals -- Lawrence mayor Michael Sullivan and former standout NFL lineman Fred Smerlas -- to challenge for the seat. At press time, Smerlas had not revealed his decision. Sullivan had recently announced plans to open an exploratory committee for the run.

Smerlas isn't the only Republican former football standout looking at politics. Someone apparently finally knocked some sense into former Hall of Fame wide receiver, former Pittsburgh Steeler, losing Republican gubernatorial candidate Lynn Swann. Instead of shooting for the highest office, the political neophyte is gunning for a seat he can actually win. He's looking to challenge first term Rep. Jason Altmire, who defeated incumbent Rep. Melissa Hart last fall for the PA 4th District seat. Hart is also mulling a run.

Swann's initial political run was against Gov. Ed Rendell, a legendary Pennsylvania pol. Swann wasn't given much a shot, and insiders felt that the candidate should have been given an opportunity in a lesser race to get his political sea legs in place.

Swann is being heavily wooed for the seat, in part because while he lost to Rendell by close to 20 points statewide, Swann beat Rendell in the 4th district, 51-49.

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