Capital Briefs: January 14-18

KEMP THROWS PASS FOR MCCAIN:  Supply-siders and many conservatives in general are still reeling over the New Hampshire primary-eve endorsement of Arizona Sen. John McCain by one of their true heroes—Jack Kemp, whose Kemp-Roth bill in 1978 was the forerunner of the Reagan tax cuts and was pivotal to the modern Republican Party’s embracing the supply-side cause of lower tax rates.  The endorsement by the onetime Buffalo Bills quarterback and 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee was particularly surprising and galling to conservatives in that McCain had opposed the initial  Bush tax cuts on the grounds that there were no accompanying spending cuts—the same argument “deficit hawks” have made against Kemp-style tax cuts since the 1980s.  But some Kemp-watchers see another issue as motivating his strange endorsement:  immigration.  As Donald Lambro wrote in the Washington Times last week: “Mr. Kemp supports a full-blown guest-worker program that includes a path to citizenship, and Mr. McCain is the only Republican candidate who has led the fight for just such a plan.”  Former Rep. Vin Weber (R.-Minn.), a key backer of Kemp for President in 1988 and McCain in 2000 and now a top strategist for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, agreed with Lambro, saying, “Jack doesn’t believe John McCain is a supply-sider unless he’s changed his mind in the last month. This is all about immigration.  Jack wants to support an immigration liberal, but that’s not the image McCain wants to convey.”  Kemp’s endorsement came as Romney concluded his New Hampshire campaign with statewide mass mailings slamming McCain on his past opposition to tax cuts and his support of the comprehensive immigration reform package that died in the Senate last year.

MITT MOVES ON:  For all the gloom-and-doom forecasts about Mitt Romney’s campaign following his one-two defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire, his advisors made it clear to Human Events that he is going nowhere but on the campaign trail.  “If we win in Iowa and New Hampshire, we go on to Michigan [and its primary January 15],” Massachusetts GOP National Committeeman and Romney strategist Ron Kaufman told Human Events on the eve of the Iowa caucuses. “If we lose Iowa and New Hampshire, we go on to Michigan.”  Romney was born and raised in the state, is the son of revered former Gov. George Romney and, even after New Hampshire, clings to a statewide lead in most polls.  Kaufman also pointed out that his man was the lone candidate making a full-blown effort in Wyoming’s GOP caucuses a few days before New Hampshire and that Romney did indeed end up winning eight of the state’s 12 delegates to the ’08 national convention. (Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson won three, and California Rep. Duncan Hunter won one.)

BROCK SETS RECORD STRAIGHT ON OKLAHOMA:  Days after the conference of goo-goo moderates last week at the University of Oklahoma that sparked renewed media speculation New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will run for President on a third-party ticket, at least one of its participants made it clear that a third party headed by Bloomberg or anyone else was never what he had in mind when he accepted the invitation to the conference.  Shortly before he left for the conference (which was called by University President and former Democratic Sen. David Boren), former Republican National Chairman and onetime Tennessee Sen. Bill Brock told Human Events’ John Gizzi that he had the impression that “we were going to discuss how Congress can start acting like grownups instead of six-year-olds, as it has been doing.”  Brock said, “I did not expect the press to focus on a third-party movement.  That was not on my agenda, in any sense of the word.”  Brock said that he was “not in any way interested in a third party.”  The conference, Brock felt, was “less a critique of candidates and more of Congress.”  Along with Boren, Democratic participants in the conclave included former Senators Sam Nunn (Ga.) and Gary Hart (Colo.).  Republicans in attendance included Brock, former Rep. Jim Leach (Iowa) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) 

‘18’ AND ‘19’ FOR HOUSE GOP:  That’s shorthand for the 18th and 19th Republican House members to say they are leaving Congress in ’08: Representatives John Peterson (Pa.) and John Doolittle (Calif.), who announced their retirements last week.  The 69-year-old Peterson had decided that 12 years in office was enough, while 10-termer Doolittle had been dogged by ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and barely won re-election in ’06.  With several more GOP lawmakers expected to call it quits by the end of February, the number of Republican retirees is likely to exceed the 22 who stepped down in ’06.

ROVE ON DEMS:  Karl Rove says that the Democratic contest will go on through “Super Tuesday” (February 5) and possibly beyond.  In his latest incarnation as political pundit, the man known for guiding George W. Bush to two terms in the White House wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton “is likely to win the Democratic beauty contest in Michigan January 15.  But with no delegates at stake, it will have little impact.”  Rove goes on to predict that Clinton will probably lose the Nevada caucuses January 19, that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is the probable winner in South Carolina January 26 because “half the Democratic primary voters are likely to be African-Americans” and that the Florida primary January 29 “looms very large” and will probably have a disproportionate impact on contests in 22 states February 5.  Because so many states are voting on “Super Tuesday,” Rove feels that “no candidate will have enough money, time or energy to cover all the contests” and that “candidates will pick states where they have a better chance to win and, by doing so, lock down more delegates.” 
After Super Tuesday is over, concludes Rove, “who has the most delegates” will be most important and that “party elders and voters in later contests will want to start consolidating behind a candidate.”  Rove did not say, however, which Democratic candidate he thought that would be. Nor did he say what he thought the GOP results in these upcoming primaries would be. 

UPDATE ON ILLEGALS AND EMPLOYERS: At a time when the most recent Pew Research poll showed that 55% of Americans feel the most effective means of reducing illegal immigration is to increase penalties on employers who knowingly hire illegals, the pursuit of employers who violate illegal immigrant laws already on the books is on the rise.  According to BusinessWeek, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) “made 863 criminal arrests at companies last year … most charged with knowingly hiring illegal workers.”  This is a striking contrast to 2006, when ICE made only 176 such arrests.  According to ICE spokesman Pat Reilly, “Usually the way it works is that we get a couple of hundred administrative or criminal arrests and a few supervisors.  Then we work our way up.”