GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) had promised budget- cutting groups that he would move to block the proposed $135 million move of the Patent and Trademark Office from Arlington to Alexandria.

So Senate staff members all day Thursday fielded phone calls from people demanding support for the McCain amendment. "Lots of call were coming in," one aide said, making the staff somewhat grumpy.

They were ready to support the amendment, but it was never offered. Seems McCain was in New York and Norfolk that day, speaking about campaign finance reform and doing some campaigning.

McCain got back from Norfolk about 9:45 p.m., too late for the final voice vote on the Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary appropriation bill, so he couldn't offer that amendment, and no one offered it on his behalf.

"He tried to make it back," spokeswoman Nancy Ives explained. "The bill was completed earlier than he thought," she said, noting there was a possibility it might carry over to Friday or even Tuesday. "It's not over," she said. "We're certainly going to keep trying to attach it to future legislation."

"You snooze, you lose," one of those lobbied grumbled.

Lott Polls GOP About Presidential Choice

You can never have enough polls to go around, it seems. While every poll so far shows Texas Gov. George W. Bush to be the overwhelming choice of Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) isn't sure.

"The majority leader's presidential poll I've enclosed is the first official Year 2000 survey of Republican leaders and voters," Lott said in a recent letter. "Our presidential nominee must be a person YOU support," the letter says. "Your personal opinion and involvement are critical to electing a Republican as our next president," Lott said, and "we MUST win."

"Why?" Because Clinton, Gore and the Democrats "are now beholden to the most extreme liberal factions of their party. . . . It's the extremist left-wing groups, combined with the super-rich trial lawyers and Hollywood elite" who are "demanding they maintain a rock-solid left-wing agenda."

So please, please send in your ballot, he says, and, oh yes, send a check. But your ballot's really important too.

Can Lott declare the winner of this poll to be the GOP candidate and save us all a lot of time and money?

Lamar Alexander Explains 'Charisma'

Speaking of GOP presidential candidates, former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander--so light on the excitement meter that he put a "!" after his first name--opined the other day about the meaning of charisma.

"You define it in different ways," Alexander said last week in an interview with C-SPAN. "I just finished a book on George Washington in which it was said that George Washington's charisma came from his character, from his words and his deeds. That's the kind of charisma I'd like to have. "Another kind of charisma is celebrity," Alexander said. "I remember when I was a kid, Francis the Talking Mule came to Maryville, Tenn., and outdrew all the movie stars we had, all the local personalities, because that mule had been on television. I became an electrifying figure after I did well in the Iowa caucus because there were 200 television cameras around and people would go out to see anything, including a mule that's been on television."

Electrifying figure?

Taking Bids to Prevent What?

Now, from the Department of Health and Human Services, a procurement notice for bids to "Develop an American Indian Prevention Initiative." Further reading shows this is about developing a program for prevention of drug abuse in American Indian communities.

Clinton's Fitness Head Is No Arnold

Catching up on recent appointments. President Clinton has picked retired body-builder Lee Haney of Atlanta to be chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Haney, who owns two fitness centers in Atlanta and has been a member of the council since December 1998, won eight consecutive Mr. Olympia titles, better than Arnold Schwarzenegger's seven-title record, the White House said in announcing his selection.

Oh, yeah? Bet he can't say "Hasta la vista, baby" the way Arnold can.

NSC Answers a Dusty Request

Two things can be said about National Security Council aides: First, they like to be helpful; second, they want to take their time and be thorough.

Our colleague Lena Sun filed a Freedom of Information Act request a while back asking for information about family members of Chinese government officials studying or living in the United States.

NSC's "access management" director Rod Soubers wrote back a few weeks ago saying the agency is not subject to FOIA requests but tries to respond "as appropriate."

Soubers said the NSC staff couldn't find any such documents. And they've been looking a long time. Sun filed her request in 1991.