A year ago, Democratic Senator Max Baucus was thought to be a prime Republican target for GOPers seeking to retake the Senate. Party strategists were pushing for former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot to make the run. But Racicot instead took the chairmanship of the party's national committee and a lobbying job in Washington instead. Mike Taylor, one-time hair stylist and owner of the Mike Taylor School of Hair Design, entered the fray and almost immediately fell behind Baucus, who has consistently led by a 20-point margin.
Now Baucus's victory seems even more assured since Taylor announced on Thursday he was dropping out of the race. Most press reports are citing a state Democratic Party TV ad that tells viewers that Taylor mishandled student loan money paid to his company by people seeking training as beauticians and hair stylists.
"It isn't the charge, which Taylor has explained to the people of Montana, and which hasn't made a bit of difference," says an RNC advance staffer. "It's the way the Democrats used film clips to subliminally lead the voter to believe that Taylor was gay."
The commercial featured 20-year-old film clips of Taylor, decked out in disco-style garb, working on hair for a Denver, Colorado news feature. Taylor, who is married, told local reporters that he felt he couldn't overcome the homo-hinting the Democrats were putting on the air. With Taylor out of the race, and ballots already printed for the November election, state party officials believe it is too late for them to pull a "Torricelli" and place another Republican on the ballot. Some national party leaders, including Republican Senate Campaign Committee chairman Sen. Bill Frist, sought out Racicot to see if he might be willing to step into the fray and run, perhaps as a write-in candidate. But the former governor declined.
In reality, Republicans were troubled by Taylor's candidacy for months, but did little to shake up the campaign. After committing to give the Montana GOP financial support to underwrite the Taylor race, the RNC pulled the funding several months ago when it became clear Taylor wasn't up to the task of defeating Baucus. "We needed that money in Missouri, and now in New Jersey," says the RNC staffer. "It would have been wasted in Montana."
While it makes holding the House a bit tougher, conservative Republicans long stymied by liberal colleague Connie Morella of Maryland are enjoying the way women's groups are treating the Republican congresswoman from Bethesda. Morella last week was stunned when the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for Women endorsed her Democratic opponent, Chris Van Hollen, a male state representative, instead of her. She had received NOW's endorsement in prior elections and was recently honored as woman of the year in the state by the organization. But NOW says that Morella's voting record on women's issues isn't as strong as Van Hollen's.
"Morella has called herself a Republican and voted like a Democrat, kowtowed to the women's groups, and now she's getting what she deserves," says a conservative Republican congressman. "I feel bad that she's probably going to lose because she had faith in these groups supporting her, but she's experiencing what we've been saying and have known for years, that these groups only care about helping Democrats."
Sen. Robert Byrd has been waging a week-long war on the floor of the Senate to block the one that President Bush wants to wage in Iraq. On Thursday Byrd could be seen waving about a palm-sized version of the U.S. Constitution in booklet form, which has been published and distributed around the world by the Cato Institute.
"When we pointed out that the think tank that published it was libertarian, he didn't want to bring it on the floor," says a Democratic staffer on the Appropriations Committee, which Byrd chairs. "But it was the only copy we could find in the office."
And where did they find it? "We took it from a Republican staffer's desk," says the Democrat.
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