DON'T MESS WITH TAXES
President Bush has begun his push to make permanent the tax cuts passed during his first term, and at least in some quarters of the House and Senate, this move is viewed as a good thing heading into the 2006 election cycle.
"If we can focus on tax cuts across the board for everyone, and move away from the Social Security debate, that would be great," says a Republican House Ways and Means staffer. "We'd much rather have the fight about tax cuts."
Coming off the recent successful House and Senate session, which saw the passage of major energy, transportation, and trade legislation, Republicans are looking to return in the fall to a slate of possible successes, and they'd like the permanent passage of the tax cuts to be part of it. "With a Supreme Court nomination victory, sound immigration reform and the tax cuts, we'd be a good shape leading into the spring with some momentum," says a Senate Republican staffer.
If the White House decides to push hard on the tax cuts it would be more than a small victory for House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, who pressed the White House after the 2004 election to put off the Social Security reform battle until after it had notched some victories on the tax front for middle class Americans.
Sen. Hillary Clinton is refusing to buy into polls that show a clear majority of New York voters want her to commit to a full, second Senate term before they will vote for her. Last week saw the release of a Quinnipiac poll that revealed that more than 60 percent of New Yorkers -- including 50 percent of Democrats surveyed -- said that they want Clinton to promise she will serve the full-term if she is re-elected.
Of course, Clinton's husband made a similar promise to the voters of Arkansas back in the 1990s that he would not seek the presidency if re-elected to the governorship, and we know where that landed the nation.
Hillary's situation now appears further complicated with the emergence of Westchester County Republican Jeanine Pirro, a formidable prosecuting attorney, a moderate, and a politician a number of Republicans in the state had expected to run for governor. Pirro apparently has little interest in succeeding George Pataki and instead has set her sights on a Senate seat.
It's doubtful that Hillary's pollster, Mark Penn, has thrown Pirro's name out in surveys. Her campaign has to take Pirro's candidacy far more seriously than that of any other GOP candidate now in the race, and Pirro certainly thins the field of any lightweight possibilities. While it is doubtful that Hillary would lose in a head to head race with Pirro, her fellow Westchesterite is smart and tough enough to take her head on and make it a competitive Senate race.
What Hillary has to consider now is whether it is worth it to win a Senate seat by five percentage points and break a promise to voters about serving a full term if re-elected, or whether it will be better simply to be honest with the voters, and choose not to seek re-election and instead begin an early campaign for the presidential nomination many Democrats expect her to seek.
As for the issue of her "promise" to voters, Clinton's Senate campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, was quick to point out last week that his boss has repeatedly stated her commitment is to the people of New York, and Clinton's Senate campaign regularly pushes back on the notion that the 2006 re-election campaign is nothing more than a dry run for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination fight.
But Clinton is concerned enough about the appearance that she may abandon New Yorkers that pollster Mark Penn has been tracking the issue for the campaign. "It isn't registering as strongly for us as it is for outside pollsters, and we're getting pretty deep into the survey pool for undecided voters," says a campaign source. "We don't think any right-minded Democrat from New York wouldn't love to see Senator Clinton run for higher office, whether she is a sitting Senator or a private citizen."
If anyone understands the relationship a Clinton has with a voter or potential voter, it's Penn. He served as President Bill Clinton's pollster during the 1996 re-election campaign, and is expected to serve in a similar capacity should Hillary decide to run for president. According to sources inside the Clinton camp in New York, while hubby Bill is not taking a visibly active role in his wife's re-election campaign, or in her staff's planning regarding the Democratic presidential nomination, he does get Penn's polling data and is in touch with him to discuss strategy.
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