Gore vs. Hillary

Democratic insiders take seriously a possible new try for the presidency by Al Gore and say he is capable of raising more money than the presumptive front-runner, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton’s team has attempted to foreclose conventional Democratic money sources, drying up funding for her potential presidential rivals. She has $17.1 million cash on hand, more than any other possible candidate. Her current fund-raising tour is aimed at an additional $40 million.

However, party operatives believe former Vice President Gore can outdo Clinton through unconventional fund-raising on the Internet. By campaigning left of Clinton, Gore appeals to ardent anti-war Democrats. Gore’s first presidential run in 1988 positioned him as the centrist candidate, to the right of eventual nominee Michael Dukakis.

Ports Politics

The 377 to 38 vote by which the House Wednesday preserved anti-Dubai Ports World language in an appropriations bill was set up by Republican leaders to give GOP members of Congress a chance to go on record against U.S. ports management by a United Arab Emirates (UAE) state-owned company.

Republicans asked two senior congressmen retiring from Congress — Michael Oxley of Ohio and Jim Kolbe of Arizona — to introduce the fake amendment supporting the now defunct UAE deal. Both declined, though they voted for the amendment. It was introduced by Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, a maverick liberal Republican from Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

A footnote: President Bush was in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall next to the House chamber during the debate and vote on the ports deal. Bush was attending an event marking the anniversary of the Hungarian revolution of 1848.

Boycotting Congressman

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the House Judiciary Committee chairman, was not present at a March 8 press conference celebrating passage of his bill forcing registration of child sex predators. According to congressional sources, Sensenbrenner absented himself from the event after learning Ed Smart, father of kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart, was present there.

In 2003, Smart attacked Sensenbrenner’s handling of the Amber Alert bill affecting abducted children. The father opposed attaching the measure to a comprehensive crime bill that many Democratic House members were against.

Sensenbrenner declined comment on his absence. He was present Feb. 28 when members of victims’ families, but not Smart, met to promote the Sensenbrenner bill. Smart thanked Sensenbrenner for the legislation last Tuesday on Fox’s "Hannity and Colmes."

South Carolina Blooper

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is ecstatic over a blooper made by the Republican candidate challenging 12-term Democratic Rep. John Spratt in South Carolina.

State Rep. Ralph Norman, a real estate developer new to national politics, reacted to the politically unpopular Dubai Ports World deal by saying he would depend on President Bush’s judgment. Later, he said he did not know enough to make a judgment. Since then, Republican strategists have played down the deal.

Spratt, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, had no Republican opponent in 2002 and won with 63 percent in 2004. The National Republican Congressional Committee has targeted him for 2006, contending that he campaigns as a conservative in South Carolina while voting with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in the House. Spratt had a 90 percent liberal voting record in 2005, as measured by the Americans for Democratic Action.

Sweet 16 Money

The 19 skybox tickets to NCAA "Sweet Sixteen" games at Washington’s Verizon Center next Friday, put on sale to raise funds for Rep. Thomas Reynolds, sold out quickly despite being marked up to $2,000 apiece. But the purchasers will not have the pleasure of Reynolds’s company.

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, Reynolds that day will be in Jacksonville, Fla., with Vice President Dick Cheney. The $38,000 raised goes to TOMPAC, the congressman’s political action fund.

Tickets for the sold-out event have a face value of $65, and scalpers on the street are likely to get less than $2,000 for them.