Democrats Explore Their Spiritual and Technological Sides

A photo posted on the Senate Democrats' Web site shows Minority Leader Harry Reid, far left, praying with a group in his office. The site's
A photo posted on the Senate Democrats' Web site shows Minority Leader Harry Reid, far left, praying with a group in his office. The site's "Word to the Faithful" is new. (Www.senate.democrats.gov - Www.senate.democrats.gov)

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By Alan Cooperman and Brian Faler
Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Senate Democrats are getting religion. Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), yesterday unveiled a Web site aimed at religious voters and announced plans to hold a conference on faith-based social services in Las Vegas on Aug. 24.

Reid spokeswoman Tessa Hafen said the conference will bring together religious leaders to "discuss how the government can help them with what they're working on, what resources are available." During the 2004 presidential campaign, Democrats accused the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives of holding similar conferences -- paid for with taxpayer dollars -- to build support for the Republican ticket in swing states.

Hafen said Reid's conference will be privately funded by the Federal Home Loan Bank.

The Web site, http://democrats.senate.gov/faith.html , or as Reid calls it, "A Word to the Faithful," says it is "dedicated to illustrating how people of faith and Senate Democrats can work together to lift our neighbors up and achieve our common goals." It features a photo gallery of Reid, a Mormon, meeting with Catholic, mainline Protestant and Jewish leaders.

Evangelicals were not impressed. "Basically, it looks like he's created a Web site that will appeal to liberal Protestants and some Catholics. Those are people who have largely been inside the Democratic camp already," said Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. "I hope they spend a lot of time and money on it, because it will be a waste of money."

The Podcast Revolution

It's like C-SPAN. But for your iPod.

A growing number of lawmakers are offering their speeches, news conferences and radio addresses to the millions of Americans who own digital audio players such as Apple's iPod.

House Democrats have now joined the "podcast" bandwagon, releasing half a dozen audio files on both their Web site, HouseDemocrats.gov, and at Apple's popular iTunes online music store. There is a free, downloadable file of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) blasting the GOP's energy bill. In another, Rep. Bob Menendez (N.J.) complains that the Bush administration is shortchanging security programs for public transit.

The Democrats join California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards and the Republican National Committee in attempting to bypass the news media and carve out an audience among the more than 10 million Americans who own the devices. Many politicians were slow to pick up on the blogging phenomenon and don't want to miss out on podcasting as the next big thing.

But who, exactly, do they think will tune in? "People who are interested in a particular topic," said Jennifer Crider, a Pelosi spokeswoman. "Or who, for example, are not able to listen to the radio address each Saturday when it's on the radio -- they're able to catch up on it later."

Santorum Trails in Poll

His high-profile fights with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) get all the headlines.

But a new poll suggests that some of Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's biggest headaches come from a Democrat that few outside Pennsylvania have ever heard of: Bob Casey.

A Quinnipiac University poll found Santorum trailing Casey, the state treasurer, by 11 percentage points. Casey, an antiabortion Democrat, is the son of a former governor -- giving him a good bit of name recognition in the Keystone State. Santorum is an outspoken conservative representing a state that went for Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). He is considered one of his party's most vulnerable incumbents. Just 45 percent of the poll's respondents said Santorum deserves to be reelected.

While 44 percent said the Santorum's politics are "about right" for the state, 29 percent said he is "too conservative."

"Pennsylvania voters apparently don't feel Santorum's politics are out of line with their views, but he will have his hands full running against a Democrat with the name of Casey," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the university's polling institute.


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