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Published: Sunday, 11/17/2002

Who's in & who's out after the 2002 elections

BY ANN McFEATTERS
BLADE WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON - Elections mean change. And departures. And different guest lists for all those power dinners in the nation's capital.

While the 2002 elections were far from the housecleaning Republicans are boasting about, the narrow loss by the Democrats of control of the Senate and the gain by Republicans of more seats in the House mean that, once again, we all have to revise our Who's In and Who's Out lists. Former President George H.W. Bush regularly gnashed his teeth and growled at such lists, but they're just too irresistible to give up.

OUT:

Rep. Richard Gephardt (D, Mo.)

The red-haired man with the invisible eyebrows won easy reelection to his 14th House term but was unable to recapture the House for Democrats after eight years of trying. He resigned as House minority leader, presumably to pursue his ambition to be elected president in 2004. But his luster as a political leader has dimmed considerably. The book is that not even Tinkerbell and all the children clapping together could restore the magic.

Sen. Thomas Daschle (D, S.D.)

Still the major voice of Democrats in Washington, Mr. Daschle lost control of the Senate to the Republicans and thus his coveted post as majority leader. That means he has lost control of the agenda and the ability to set floor votes. His decision to block a vote on the creation of a department of homeland security, on grounds its employees would not get civil service protection, hurt Democrats badly in the election. His colleague, Sen. Tim Johnson, (D, S.D.) narrowly squeaked in to be reelected, preventing complete humiliation for Mr. Daschle. But his craving to be president has received a setback and possibly a mortal blow.

Former President Bill Clinton

The Clinton era is now officially over. Mr. Clinton is yesterday's news. At least his wife hopes so - stark new headlines would not help her political career. Although he campaigned vigorously for Democratic candidates around the country, he had insufficient impact to make a difference in many races. The former president seldom returns to Washington, where the Clintons have a posh brick mansion on a cul de sac near a number of embassies. He is making millions of dollars and is popular abroad, but his insistence on bringing the Democrats back to the center of the political spectrum has been spurned as Democrats elected a new crop of more liberal leaders.

Terry McAuliffe

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. McAuliffe was handpicked by Mr. Clinton for his masterful skills as a fundraiser. Without doubt, he's been one of the Democrats' all-time greats at filling the party's coffers. But the decisive loss of the House and the Senate and the common complaint that Democrats had no national message - not war with Iraq, not the growing deficit, not corporate malfeasance, not the loss of retirement savings - has hurt his reputation as party chair. The clamor for his resignation or replacement has hurt his reputation.

Jim Traficant

Once the most colorfully unpredictable member of Congress, Traficant is now just a jailbird. Having decisively lost his quixotic campaign to be reelected to Congress as a Democrat turned independent from his cell at the federal prison in Allentown, Pa., Traficant, who was in the House for 18 years, will serve out his sentence for bribery instead of serving again in Congress. After Republicans carved up his old district in the Youngstown area, Traficant lost to a 29-year-old, old-fashioned Democrat, Timothy Ryan. But those "Free Jim" campaign T-shirts with his picture emblazoned on the front could be collector's items.

Sen. James Jeffords (I, Vt.)

When the Republican senator from Vermont deserted his party last year saying President Bush had done too little on education issues, giving control of the Senate to Democrats by just one vote, he was reviled wherever two or more Republicans were gathered. But he was also an instant celebrity, courted by TV networks, lionized by Democrats and invited to more dinner parties than he could count. When Democrats lost control of the Senate as a result of the Nov. 5, elections, just about the first thing Republicans did was to strip Jeffords of his beloved post as chairman of the Senate Environment Committee. That job was given to him by Democrats in gratitude even though he was an independent. The TV interviews are over, the GOP ostracism is total and as for dinner, he has to fend for himself. And the chances for money for new federal construction projects in Vermont are just about nil.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D, Del.)

The senior senator from Delaware was riding high. He was chairman of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee at a time of high importance given the war on terrorism and possible war with Iraq. He thought he'd probably make another run for the Democratic nomination for president. But after the election, Biden is once again on the outside peering in, his chairmanship and thus his podium for a presidential run snatched away.

Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.)

The man who was the thorn in Mr. Bush's side during the 2000 campaign as "Mr. Straight Talk" is no longer the unofficial voice of Republican dissidents in the Senate. He has flatly said he won't run again for the presidency, meaning the political spotlight will shift to others. And a lot of Republicans are still miffed with him for pushing through campaign finance reform legislation. He is likely to find himself complaining about loopholes those Republicans keep finding in the new law, which took effect the day after the Nov. 5 election.

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D, Ga.)

One of the House's most outspoken black women had her head handed to her this year, losing decisively to another black woman in Georgia's dramatic Democratic primary. The five-term congresswoman had stunned supporters and opponents alike by indicating she thought Mr. Bush had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11 attacks and failed to act and by outrageous comments on the Middle East. She had Louis Farrakhan and Jesse Jackson into her upscale black district to campaign for her. Her loss indicates that the 60s'-style confrontational rhetoric, racial polarization and just-over-the-line political stunts don't work any more. To balance the loss of the left-wing Ms. McKinney, Georgians also defeated her right-wing counterpart, Rep. Bob Barr (R, Ga.), indicating the voters want the decibel level lowered.

The Kennedy Mystique

With the decisive defeat of high-profile Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Democratic candidate for governor of Maryland and daughter of Robert Kennedy, the magic of the Kennedy name in American politics has evaporated. Townsend's brother Max dropped out of a race for Congress in Massachusetts. Mark Shriver, son of John F. Kennedy's sister Eunice, lost his bid to go to Congress. Ethel Kennedy's son-in-law, Andrew Cuomo, dropped out of the race for New York governor.

IN

President George W. Bush

If there was any general agreement after the surprises of Nov. 5, it was that Mr. Bush validated the 2000 election outcome. Politically born again, he is the most popular politician in America, despite presiding over an economic downturn, the collapse of many 401(k)s, the war on terrorism and possibly a war against Iraq. Time after time, Republicans said his stumping for them on their home turf helped elect them. With Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, he's in the catbird seat.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, Ca.)

The first woman to lead her party in Congress in U.S. history, she's The Woman. Taking over from Mr. Gephardt, who was The Man, she now speaks as much as anyone else for the party. Whatever she says will be analyzed and parsed over from the Democratic cloakroom to the White House. Known as pleasant but tough, capable and shrewd, she may never have to cook again. Everybody will want to invite her at the dinner table, especially if she sheds her far-left image.

Katharine Harris

The woman who was the bane of the Democrats in Florida in 2000, when she was secretary of state and kept ruling in favor of Mr. Bush, she's now an elected representative to Congress in her own right. And that means she's an instant national celebrity. She's toned down the makeup, gotten an expensive new wardrobe and redone her hair. She's got the money for a fancy mansion and undoubtedly will keep her own salon. Already the party invitations are pouring in.

Elizabeth Dole

The wife of the losing 1996 Republican candidate and a drop-out candidate for president in 2000, Ms. Dole has regained the clout she lost when she was unable to raise enough money to run a viable campaign. In defeating the wealthy Erskine Bowles, who was chief of staff in the Clinton White House, she's going to be comfortable in the Senate as the venerable Jesse Helms' replacement. Because of her past stints as a Cabinet member in the Reagan and Bush administrations, she'll have clout beyond her status as a freshman senator. The Doles, with a lavish apartment at the Watergate, already are on the A-list.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, N.Y.)

The wife of the former president, well settled into the Senate, she has been assiduous in doing her homework, conscientious about doing dull chores around the Senate, stellar in raising money for fellow Democrats and skillful in keeping her name up on the list of presidential hopefuls for 2008. She's now got the stature she's always wanted. And when the press wants to compare and contrast, she and Ms. Dole will be the women the media turns to.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R, Ind.)

Mr. Lugar's many friends in Washington could never figure out why the unassuming, low-key, smart and personable senior senator from Indiana had such a hard time politically. His fledgling run for president went nowhere fast. His desire to head the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the Senate was Republican was thwarted by Sen. Jesse Helms (R, N.C.) So Mr. Lugar toiled dutifully away on agricultural issues. Now he's gotten his heart's desire - to chair foreign relations, an acknowledged expert in the field. He will be the major voice in the Senate on such issues as terrorism and Iraq, Russia and the Middle East.

Karl Rove

The latest in a long list of wunderkinds credited with saving his president, Mr. Rove, as senior White House political adviser, is a demigod in Washington right now. He was ridiculed for telling Republicans privately that the war on terrorism and war with Iraq would be major strategies for a GOP victory Nov. 5. But his risky maneuver paid off. If Mr. Bush's party had lost, Mr. Rove - and the president - would have been in serious trouble. Now he's the acknowledged political genius in town, according to the last wunderkind, Democratic consultant James Carville, the ragin' Cajun. And he proved that the departure of White House aide Karen Hughes back to Texas wasn't a death blow to the Bush presidency.

Sen. Bill Frist (R, Tenn.)

The man whom some quietly patronized as just another surgeon who wanted to play at politics now is being talked about as a possible presidential candidate in 2008. As the Senate GOP campaign chair, he's given a lot of the credit for helping Republicans take back control of the Senate. He also has a new book on how to defend yourself against bioterrorism. No doubt about it. He's hot.

Sen. John Edwards (D, N.C.)

Some Democrats thought the first-term 49-year-old trial lawyer from the Deep South wasn't ready for prime time when he began making noises about running for president in 2004. But unscarred by the Democratic loss of the Senate, charismatic and eager, he lost no time in laying out an economic agenda for the Democrats. He, Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D, Conn.) are top contenders for the 2004 nomination.

Sen. Trent Lott (R, Miss.)

The first time Mr. Lott was the Senate Majority Leader, he didn't do such a great job. Following Bob Dole, he often came across as humorless, petty, partisan and sometimes inept. Because Republicans now control the Senate, Mr. Lott gets a rare second chance to make a first impression. Friends say he's learned and will work closely with the White House to try to present a unified Republican position.



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