The Vast Conspiracy Rides Again

By Chris Cillizza
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The vast right-wing conspiracy that dogged her husband's presidency remains alive and well, according to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Speaking to the National League of Cities yesterday, Clinton said the 2002 phone-jamming scandal in New Hampshire, in which two Republicans pleaded guilty to seeking to block Democratic get-out-the-vote calls on Election Day, was yet more evidence of a coordinated national effort by GOPers to influence elections by any means necessary.

"If anybody tells you there is no vast right-wing conspiracy, tell them that New Hampshire has proven it in court," she said.

Clinton first uttered that famous phrase in 1998 in response to rumors -- which wound up being true -- regarding President Bill Clinton's relationship with a former White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

On the campaign trail, Clinton (D-N.Y.) uses her battles with Republicans during her time as first lady to illustrate her toughness. "I'm the one person they are most afraid of," Clinton said at a house party last month in Nashua, N.H. "Bill and I have beaten them before, and we will again."

Some strategists believe she runs a risk in invoking a line so closely associated with her husband's infidelity and subsequent impeachment hearings, as it may remind voters of a recent past they are not eager to relive.

Meehan to Take U-Mass. Post

Rep. Marty Meehan (D-Mass.) has been tapped as the next chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell and will resign his congressional seat in July.

"The decision to leave the House has been the most difficult professional decision of my life," Meehan said in a statement. "But after serious personal reflection . . . the opportunity to serve as chancellor of my alma mater is the right path for me."

Meehan's departure will set off a special election in his 5th District seat. Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) must schedule that election within 160 days of the vacancy.

A number of Democrats are already being mentioned as possible replacements, the most interesting of whom is Niki Tsongas -- the wife of the late Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.). Republicans aren't likely to seriously contest this seat, which home-state Sen. John F. Kerry (D) won with 57 percent in 2004.

One lingering question is what Meehan will do with the $5 million in his House campaign account. The options available to him include donating it to a party committee or giving it to charity.

Dole Cruises in GOP Poll

A new poll done for Sen. Elizabeth Dole's campaign shows the senator well positioned to win a second term.

Sixty-four percent of those polled said they felt favorably toward Dole (R-N.C.), while just 28 percent felt unfavorably; a similar 63 percent expressed approval of the job Dole has done in her first term in the Senate, compared with 25 percent who disapproved.

Dole's solid numbers stand in stark contrast to the ratings for President Bush in the poll; 45 percent felt favorably toward Bush, while 52 percent felt unfavorably. That dichotomy reveals that "Senator Dole's numbers are strong and independent of a difficult national environment focused on Iraq," pollster Jan van Lohuizen wrote in a memo summarizing the results.

The Dole poll comes on the heels of a survey commissioned by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee that showed the Republican senator in considerably more peril. Released late last month, the survey showed just 49 percent of voters rated Dole as doing an "excellent/good" job; 46 percent said she was doing a "fair/poor" job.

The problem for Democrats is that they don't have a top-tier candidate. Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and state Treasurer Richard Moore both seem committed to the governor's race; outgoing Gov. Mike Easley (D) recently told talk-show host Charlie Rose that "if you're in the Senate, you're sitting around doing hearings all day long. . . . I'm not a good meeting person."

Shrum Rears His Head

Longtime Democratic political consultant Bob Shrum regrets advising former senator John Edwards (D-N.C.) to vote in favor of the 2002 use-of-force resolution against Iraq, according to a not-yet-released memoir penned by the campaign guru.

Not surprisingly, Edwards aides deny that the senator, who is running for his party's nomination in 2008, let political calculations infect his decision-making process.

Edwards "made his own decision based on what he thought was right, not political calculation," spokesman David Ginsberg told the Associated Press.

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