WITH EVERY BEAT
Al Gore, on his latest press tour to tout his re-invention and re-emergence, has been telling reporters how this time he's going to speak from the heart. Judging by his latest policy flip-flop, his heart is a transplant from a pollster. Last week Gore proclaimed that the only way to fix what he perceives as a health insurance crisis was to create a nationalized health insurance program. This is the same plan he attacked Sen. Bill Bradley for supporting in the 2000 presidential primaries.
Long-time Gore supporters were surprised by the policy shift, but not his advisers. "We've been polling and using some focus group data that others have pulled together as he prepares these speeches," says a Gore adviser in Washington.
Of late, Gore has made what his people termed "major policy addressees" on the Iraqi situation, the economy and health care. All of the issues were vetted in some way prior to his making the speeches.
"I don't know that it's shading what he says, but he definitely knows beforehand what might play best with this audience. What he does with that information, I don't know," says the adviser.
Republicans in the House find it laughable that Republican-in-name-only Rep. Christopher Shays thinks he has a shot at the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee. This is especially so when a true conservative, Rep. Christopher Cox, and an influential moderate, Rep. Tom Davis, are in line for the same job.
"Davis did a great job helping us widen out advantage in the election, and Cox has been a leader in our caucus for years," says a retiring House member. "What has Shays done for us lately? Oh yeah, campaign finance reform. Gee thanks."
Insiders give Cox a slight edge in gaining the committee chairmanship on the basis of his leadership experience, but his winning control of the committee may depend on how other leadership and committee assignments play out. "There is a lot of jostling for position going on," says the outgoing representative. "I don't see them making many of the decisions until just before the end of the recess."
As a politician, former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour hasn't had much success: his run for the U.S. Senate was back in 1982 did not fare well. But there's no doubt Barbour is a political creature through and through. That's why he most likely will mount a challenge against Mississippi Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in that state's 2003 election. Barbour, who since leaving the RNC has been running one of the most successful lobbying and political consulting shops in D.C., has been traveling through the state from his hometown of Yazoo City, speaking to local business and civic groups.
The Barbour run will probably highlight what will be a light 2003 election year. The other gubernatorial race of note next year is Kentucky's. There Sen. Jim Bunning was thought to be a possible candidate. But with Republicans holding a razor-thin advantage in the Senate, Bunning probably can't afford to take leave of Washington anytime before his 2004 re-election year. Besides, Bunning ran one of the weakest campaigns of any Republican in 1998.
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