Election Sneaking Up on GOP?

Sens. Tom Coburn, left, and Ben Nelson saw their fight over a Nelson earmark request come to the surface when expletive-laced e-mails by a Coburn staffer appeared in a newspaper.
Sens. Tom Coburn, left, and Ben Nelson saw their fight over a Nelson earmark request come to the surface when expletive-laced e-mails by a Coburn staffer appeared in a newspaper. (By Jennifer Pitts -- Oklahoma City Journal Record Via Associated Press)

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By Mary Ann Akers And Paul Kane
Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do Republicans have a counting problem? At the rate he's going, Tom Cole, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, might wind up a dollar short and a month late come Election Day.

Cole (Okla.) this week e-mailed a fundraising letter, laden with exclamation points, to GOP supporters asking them to join the NRCC's "Campaign for 16" -- named for, among other things, the number of seats needed to regain the majority and the number of months (he thought) until the election.

Cole explained that a donation of $16 a month would help target 16 Democrats who "have gone the extra mile for illegal immigrants" and who "voted against funding for a border fence!"

"We only need to win back 16 Congressional seats," Cole declared in his e-mail, and "we have only 16 months in which to make it happen!"

No, Mr. Cole, you don't have 16 months. Ya barely got 15! Sixteen months from the date you sent your letter, it'll be Dec. 21, and the ballots will have been cast and counted.

Cole's enemy combatants over at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee were delighted to intercept the NRCC chairman's arithmetic-challenged e-mail. "With the NRCC's new election math, it's no wonder veteran Republican members are retiring," DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said. "We wish Tom Cole and the NRCC luck in their December 21st election efforts."

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain gave Crider a run for her money in the snarky department: "We must have confused the number of months left until Election Day with the Democrats' approval rating."

(For the record, he said, it was 16 months to Election Day when the NRCC formulated its "Campaign for 16" strategy.)

The Wrong In-Box for This Feud

A nasty fight between Sens. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) over a controversial earmark has officially spiraled off the civility radar. Coburn has been critical of Nelson over his $7.5 million earmark request for an Omaha defense contractor, 21st Century Systems, which employs Nelson's son Patrick.

The anger of Coburn's staff bubbled to the surface this month when an aide sent an e-mail -- intended only for a few of his colleagues -- that included a news story about Coburn's request that the Defense Department's inspector general investigate the defense contractor. "This will shut that [expletive] up," Coburn spokesman John Hart wrote in the Aug. 1 e-mail. "Tomorrow we can announce the launch of the probe."

Coburn's legislative director, Roland Foster, replied, "Great article. How many weeks has this been in the press now? If we are shut down by the boss, you can just say we won't comment since the company is under investigation." Foster also said, referring to Nelson's signature thick hair, "We refer all questions to [Nelson's] hairdresser."

Hart then responded, "I can't wait to send an In Case You Missed It to Nebraska press that will be forwarded to . . . [expletive]." This article helped make our case with Coburn, he added.


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