Washington Prowler

Many Happy Early Returns

Some quick hits from Election Night.

By 11.5.02

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Some quick hits from Election Night:

• The White House political staff (Karl Rove) and the Republican National Committee (Karl Rove) are so impressed with the performance of Norm Coleman in Minnesota, that regardless of whether he wins or loses, he will probably end up in Washington. "There's probably a place for him in the administration," says a senior RNC official. "We're expecting a reshuffling in the next six months, and if Coleman gets robbed he may get something in the cabinet."

One position that was already being talked about on Tuesday night was director of the Environmental Protection Agency, where former New Jersey governor Christie Whitman will probably be leaving in the coming months.

• Speaking of leaving, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Harvey Pitt made a last-ditch effort to at least hold on to a job in Washington, according to a former SEC official. Pitt and the White House in the last week had been quietly negotiating his exit from the chairmanship, this after the latest in a series of missteps on his part. "For him it was one thing to step aside as chairman, it was an entirely different thing for him to leave altogether," says the former SEC official.

Even if agreeing to give up the chairmanship, Pitt apparently tried to keep his seat on the SEC. But in the end, the White House, realizing that any GOP Senate majority would be narrow, felt it wiser to rid itself of a controversial figure who had become too big a political headache.

• As it got later on Tuesday night and it appeared the Democrats had failed to make any serious inroads in the House or the Senate, there was new talk of DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe stepping aside. The most popular name being floated, and one the White House would no doubt greet warmly, is that of former Clinton and Gore adviser Donna Brazile. Brazile, who spent much of Tuesday evening defending McAuliffe against almost constant ribbing by MSNBC talking head Chris Matthews, was extremely active with the DNC this election cycle, and she continues to advise Al Gore. But it is doubtful, given Brazile's divisive reputation, she would ever be given the opportunity to lead the national party.

• In the past week several Democratic senators have made friendly, "just checking in" phone calls to Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Chafee, whose moderate ideology was spotlighted recently in a Bob Novak column that suggested he was better suited to a Democratic Party, has indicated to Democratic Senate leaders that he would be open to jumping into the independent pool with Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords. Should Republicans regain (presumably narrow) control in the Senate, Chafee intends in the coming week to make the most of his opportunity.

One problem for Chafee with Democrats is that they have nothing to offer him in the way of committee chairmanships. That, and Democratic leader Tom Daschle has already promised one of his leadership slots to Walter Mondale should he win.

• Democrats were alarmed late Tuesday night when it seemed clear that Democrat Mary Landrieu would fail to receive the 50 percent needed to hold her seat. It now appears that Republicans combined won a majority of the vote in that Senate race. Democrats have already begun dispatching strategists from Washington to Louisiana and will focus most of their attention for the December 7 runoff on New Orleans, where Landrieu saw lower than expected turnout.

To be continued....

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