Call it: "Outrageous Talk Show Hosts Who Run for Senate!"

Jerry Springer, television's leading daytime schlockmeister, said that he was "flattered and honored" by the interest some Ohio Democrats expressed in his mounting a celebrity challenge to Ohio Republican Sen. Mike DeWine.

Springer cautioned, however, that he did not know whether it was "practical or possible" for him to return to the electoral ring. "In any event," he said, "I respect the seriousness of [the] inquiry and will respond in a timely, sincere and appropriate manner."

Springer already has had a somewhat checkered political career. Elected to the Cincinnati City Council in 1971, he was later forced to resign after visiting a prostitute and paying with a personal check ("City Councilmen Who Resign in Shame!"). He won back his council seat and was elected mayor in 1977. He ran in the Democratic primary for governor in 1982, but finished last with 20 percent of the vote. A career in television beckoned, and the rest is cultural history.

DeWine, who won 53 percent of the vote in 1994, would be considered a prime target in most states. Not in Ohio. The state Democratic Party is in shambles and has no statewide nonjudicial elected officials. The party's last champion, former senator John Glenn, sat out the bulk of the 1998 campaign for his seat, choosing to focus on his return to space rather than stumping with the Democratic nominee. Then-Gov. George V. Voinovich won the seat for the GOP.

"There was a time when Springer was viewed as a possible Senate candidate," said analyst Charlie Cook. "But that day is long gone. At best this is a publicity stunt and at worst it's a joke."

If it's a joke, it's one relished by Republicans. DeWine had no comment on a Springer candidacy, but officials at the National Republican Senatorial Committee could not resist such a fat target. "We would love to face a Senate candidate that has brought us such morally inspiring shows as `Heartbreak Hookers,' `People Who Marry Their Pets' and `Online Strippers,' " committee spokesman Stuart Roy said.

Two GOP Pollsters Reunite

Republican pollsters Bill Lee and V. Lance Tarrance, who joined forces in 1980 to give President Clinton his only defeat as governor of Arkansas, are reuniting. This time Tarrance, who sold his Tarrance & Associates to the Gallup Organization in 1988, has agreed to be chairman of Tel Opinion Research.

The move signals Tarrance's return to political polling and Houston-based Tel Opinion's bid for a bigger role as a GOP polling organization. Lee, who operates out of Warrenton, will remain chief executive officer of Tel Opinion, which is best known for its polling on state and ballot issues.

Tarrance is not affiliated with Tarrance Group Inc. of Alexandria, which Gallup sold in 1991. It is now run by GOP pollsters Ed Goeas, Dave Sackett and Brian Tringali.

Staff writer Bill McAllister contributed to this report.