Washington Prowler

Senate Gamblers

Democrats play their Social Security card. Plus: Pelosi and peace.

By 9.24.02

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DEMOCRATIC INSECURITY
Democrats, concerned about several "soft" states that may go Republican in Senate campaigns, are committing as much as $1 million per week into North Carolina and Missouri, where Democrat Erskine Bowles and Sen. Jean Carnahan respectively are struggling against strong Republican candidates.

Bowles's first big media buy as the Democratic nominee (incidentally, he's still waiting for that endorsement from fellow Democrat Dan Blue) was a broadside, "scare the seniors" advertisement claiming that his opponent Elizabeth Dole wants to privatize Social Security and take away peoples' benefits. Carnahan began laying down similar plans with an entitlements forum hosted by her and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. "We plan on running some 'anti-privatization' ads against [Carnahan's opponent] Jim Talent shortly based on that forum," says a Democratic National Committee policy adviser.

North Carolina and Missouri aren't the only states Democrats are worried about. The national party and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are pouring lots of money into Minnesota in hopes propping up Sen. Paul Wellstone and into South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is neck and neck with Rep. John Thune. "We're looking better in those two states," says the DNC staffer. "But it's too soon to tell. Those were states we were really anxious about two months ago. Now it's Missouri and New Jersey."

New Jersey was thought to be a safe Democratic seat, even with the ethics problems of Sen. Robert Torricelli, but Republican candidate Doug Forrester has mounted a serious campaign that has Democrats really nervous. So big surprise, Tom Daschle was in the Garden State on Monday holding a "Social Security Forum" with The Torch.

"Look, we're a month before a huge election. Social Security is a huge issue for us in every election," says the DNC staffer. "Gore used it in 2000, we always use it. Why are people so surprised?"

HOUSE OF PEACE
Democratic House members who oppose any military action against Iraq are looking to House Democratic Whip, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, also ranking House Intelligence Committee member, to help them. "If anyone can guide us on what the United States knows and doesn't know, she can," says the staffer of another western Democratic congressman. "We know she can't leak intelligence, but she should at least be true to her beliefs, her morals, and help block what many of us know will be a disastrous military action."

Pelosi is in a tight spot over Iraq. First, almost no one cares what the House thinks about the war, as most media eyes are focused on the Senate vote, so making any kind of stand other than the patriotic kind could backfire. Second, her leader, Dick Gephardt has already come out in general support of the Bush approach. But close friends and ideological soul mates, such as Rep. Jim "Don't Mistake Me for Cynthia McKinney" McDermott, who last week said Bush would lie to the American people for the chance to start a war, want her to lead an anti-Iraq movement for them.

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