Washington Prowler

Democrat Slowdown Signs — Except at CNN

Where CNN went wrong. PLUS: Nervous about McGreevey, about Nancy, about Senate races.

By 10.29.06

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WOLF DEMOCRATS
Lots of headscratching was going on Friday evening and over the weekend about the decision by CNN producers and uberanchor Wolf Blitzer to blindside former colleague (she hosted "CNN Crossfire" back in the day) Lynn Cheney.

Aside from using questions culled from talking points on the Jim Webb scandal provided to a CNN associate producer by the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, Blitzer, -- without checking out the veracity of the talking points -- quizzed Cheney about the techniques used against suspected terrorists and her views on the Bush Administration. Cheney had been invited to discuss her new children's book, but came prepared to battle Blitzer, and more than held her own.

Why was Blitzer so aggressive? "It was all about ratings, and the fact that we have this series of specials called 'Where the Right Went Wrong' running on the network," says the CNN insider.

Part of that series ran later Friday evening after Cheney's emasculation of Blitzer (video here).

In fact, CNN producers, with the approval of more senior executives, intend to run the highly politicized, pro-Democrat Party "Where the Right Went Wrong" in the days leading into Election Day. The series uses original reporting, as well as materials, including statistics and research developed by the DNC, MoveOn.org and the labor-funded 527, Americans Coming Together, though the those sources are never mentioned in the segments.

"There are people who are wondering why this is being run so close to election day," says the CNN employee. "The questions have been asked, but we haven't gotten a satisfactory answer. But as soon as we saw the Cheney segment, we knew what they were trying to do. It wasn't just about attacking Cheney. It was about building momentum for the other programming we are running. It's about counterprogramming Fox News."

McGREEVEY KIND OF LOVE
New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez's campaign manager is said by state Democrat operatives to have hit the roof when disgraced former governor Jim McGreevey, went public on Wednesday with his desire to marry his Australian boyfriend.

McGreevey's comments came on the same day the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature must give homosexual couples the same rights as married people. "Marriage would offer the ability to bless our relationship in a committed way," McGreevey, who has been very public about his dalliances with a male former staffer and other male trysts while in the closet and married, told the New York Times.

"'Get someone over to where ever he lives and shut him up,' is basically what was said," a state Democrat Party operative said. "McGreevey's comments and the gay marriage ruling are complicating Menendez's campaign, and giving Kean some juice."

Republican Tom Kean, Jr. has been more than competitive in what is shaping up to be a critical race for Republicans nationally. In polling, he has either been in the lead within the margin of error or just trailing Menendez within the margin or error, making the race too close to call. "But there is a sense that Kean can really win this thing and that he has momentum," says a Republican National Committee staffer. "In New Jersey, we haven't always had that feeling."

Menendez and his team have certainly done everything they could to help Kean pull off the victory. Associates of Menendez, a longtime New Jersey pol, have been implicated in a potential kickback scandal, and some state party insiders are critical of Menendez's lax approach to campaigning.

"But McGreevey and this gay marriage thing just helps crystallize what this race means for Republicans around the country," says a Republican pollster. "It's not an October surprise, but it helps us."

NERVOUS ABOUT NANCY
While it may be accurate that Democrat House candidates Mike Weaver (KY-02), Heath Shuler (NC-11), and Charlie Brown (CA-04) have not publicly committed to supporting Rep. Nancy Pelosi for Speaker should the Democrat Party retake a large enough majority to elect someone to the post, Pelosi campaign staff in California say that they were told all three privately have informed Democrat House leadership that they would support the current leadership.

"We take that to mean that the Congresswoman would be supported by all of them for speaker," says a Pelosi staffer in the Golden State. "We were told that this is just the media trying to make some mischief."

That may be the case, but Pelosi's position has been viewed at times as tenuous with a caucus that has not been enamored of her leadership skills. Six months ago, when things weren't looking so good for Democrats, Pelosi was said by leadership staff to have made a big push to firm up support among the caucus for her continued leadership. "We don't think that has changed," says a leadership aide. "But if things don't pan out the way we thought they would, say, a month ago, then I think all bets are off."

IT'S MY PARTY
Recent poll numbers in Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Minnesota have Democrat National Committee staffers nervous, while an even smaller group closer to party chair Howard Dean may secretly be a bit happy about what is looking to be a much tougher final week of campaigning than most Democrats are willing to admit.

"If we lose Senate seats that we were told by Senate Democratic leadership were in good shape, then it gives Chairman Dean a much stronger hand to play with in the coming months," says a DNC staffer. "We aren't wishing for losses, but the reality is that people like Senator [Harry] Reid and Senator [Charles] Schumer have been riding us pretty badly over here, and they've been acting like they run the party. It's been tough over here dealing with those people."

The same could be said for House leaders and their relationship to Dean. Both House and Senate Dems pressured the DNC to essentially mortgage their fiscal future for the first quarter of '07 and to take out millions in loans to help pay for media and get out the vote efforts in targeted states. Dean was said by some party insiders to have balked at the move, instead demanding that Democrat candidates with safe seats or large war chests transfer funds to the campaign committees.

Now that investment isn't looking so smart as Republicans in some Senate seats are seeing a surge in polling that already appeared to be underpolling GOP voters.

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