Spendthrift Dean

Democratic insiders blame National Chairman Howard Dean for risking the party’s chances in the 2006 elections by fulfilling campaign promises he made to state chairmen when he won the office after the 2004 election.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) money traditionally has been concentrated in a dozen states that decide elections. But Dean pledged a 50-state policy, distributing money even to states that are not real battlegrounds. His fulfillment of that promise is reducing DNC assets dangerously.

Dean’s dispatch of money to Mississippi comes in for special criticism in party circles. Dean has devoted time and money to that state, where there is no chance of picking up a House or Senate seat in 2006 or winning presidential electoral votes in 2008.

Immigration Politics

Conservatives are incensed by the agreement of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to return immigration legislation to the Senate floor, reviving an issue that bitterly divides the Republican Party.

Renewing internal GOP conflict over immigration can make life difficult for conservative Republican senators facing difficult contests for re-election this year: Conrad Burns in Montana, Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Jim Talent in Missouri. All three support tough border-security legislation.

A national Zogby poll of 1,000 likely voters, commissioned by the hard-line Center for Immigration Studies, indicates overwhelming support for border enforcement over a guest-worker program advocated in the Frist-Reid compromise. The polls show heavy preference for the restrictive House bill.

Boehner Saves Himself

Rep. John Boehner saved himself in his first big test as House majority leader when he disregarded advice from fellow members of the Republican leadership who wanted him to pull down the lobbyist reform bill for lack of support.

Only minutes before the April 27 roll call, Boehner lacked the votes to keep the measure alive because of opposition by Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis. The consensus in a closed-door leadership meeting was for the majority leader to take the bill off the floor to prevent a humiliating defeat.

But Boehner stood firm and insisted on going forward. Lewis blinked first and gave way, permitting the measure to survive. The feeling in the Republican cloakroom was that Boehner always would be under the sway of Lewis and the appropriators if he had retreated.

Medicare Propaganda

Rep. Deborah Pryce, chairman of the House Republican Conference, has flooded the offices of her GOP colleagues with e-mails urging them to make speeches boasting of how many seniors are signing up for Medicare prescription drug subsides before the May 16 deadline. Democrats have claimed that President Bush’s plan is so complicated that confused senior citizens are not signing up.

Last Wednesday alone, five Republican House members — Sue Myrick of North Carolina, Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, Gresham Barrett of South Carolina and Thelma Drake of Virginia — made short floor speeches congratulating seniors for participating in the new program. Two Georgia congressmen, Phil Gingrey and Nathan Deal, gave longer speeches on the same subject.

Not joining in are some libertarian/conservative members of the Republican Study Committee who don’t believe in celebrating public participation in a new federal entitlement.

Democratic Defector

Freshman Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, the lone Democrat who broke party lines Wednesday and voted to bring the Republican tax bill to the House floor, is a prime GOP target in a year when trends in the polls support the Democrats.

 Barrow in 2004 defeated Rep. Max Burns, 52 percent to 48 percent — one of only two districts where an incumbent Republican House member lost that year. The district, which includes parts of Savannah and Augusta, was made slightly more Republican in a 2005 redistricting.

Barrow was one of 15 Democrats who voted for the tax bill on final passage. Also backing it was Rep. Harold Ford, Democratic candidate for an open Senate seat from Tennessee. Ford was the only member of the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for the bill. A fellow caucus member, Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, described the bill as driving "millions of our citizens into financial despair."