Washington Prowler

Sununu Certainty

Plus: McAuliffe's secret Florida insider.

By 9.12.02

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THE GOP'S SAFEST BET
With so many U.S. Senate races in flux around the country, Republicans aren't taking any chances with a race that seems to be cutting their way: New Hampshire.

In the past month a number of Washington, D.C.-based Republican operatives working on Capitol Hill, in lobbying shops and for special interest groups have been lending their hand to GOP Senate nominee Rep. John Sununu, and the Republican Senatorial Committee has already ponied up more than $1.4 million to run statewide TV and radio ads slamming Democratic Senate nominee Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

"Many of the D.C.-based Sununu advisers will remain with the campaign, if from a distance," says an RNC source. "Sununu is one of the few candidates we have who has a clear shot at winning this thing from the outset. We don't want to muck it up."

Perhaps not surprisingly, a number of former Senate staffers for current Bush Administration Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who lost his Michigan Senate seat two years ago, have been lending support to Sununu. Like Abraham, Sununu is a Christian Arab-American. Many of these staffers have offered Sununu policy-position advice, speechwriting and campaign strategy.

"Shaheen is using Sununu's heritage as a negative, the same way some people used Spence's heritage as a negative," says one former Abraham aide. "In today's climate, I guess it's not surprising, but we have to do what we can to make sure her dirty politics don't pay off."

The DNC, which itself has pumped about $2 million into Shaheen's campaign, mostly for anti-Sununu advertising during the primary, isn't impressed with the GOP's volunteer force. "If those Abraham guys are so great, how come their boss couldn't win re-election? We hope they do that kind of job up in New Hampshire."

TERRY TERRIFIC
DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe is making no bones about his happiness at the outcome of the Florida primary race between former Clinton Attorney General Janet Reno and Tampa lawyer Bill McBride. McBride appears to have wrapped up the Democratic nomination for governor.

With polls showing in the past week that McBride has a better shot at beating Gov. Jeb Bush than anyone could have imagined six months ago (at least two in-state polls showed McBride within six points of Bush Wednesday morning), McAuliffe was moving to persuade Reno not to challenge the outcome of the vote.

"Despite all of the problems people had at the voting sites, we're hoping that Reno won't make things difficult for the party," says a DNC staffer. "McAuliffe is doing what he can to make sure McBride has a clear shot at Bush and can hit the ground running."

McAuliffe's interest in seeing McBride succeed isn't just about politics. He's got a personal interest too. On Wednesday in meetings with state party representatives, McAuliffe was bragging that his father-in-law was McBride's finance chairman. Wonder what he could turn $100,000 into!

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