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Capital Briefs August 14-21 2008

MORE GOP ‘EXES’ FOR OBAMA: The latest gaggle of “ Republicans for Obama” were predictable enough: additional former decidedly liberal office-holders who left politics embittered at the conservative direction the modern Republican Party has taken. Among them: former Iowa House member James Leach and former Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, both of whom were defeated for re-election last year. Leach (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 43%) was a high-profile liberal GOPer during 30 years in Congress. Chafee (lifetime ACU rating: 35%), best-known near the end of his service for thwarting a Senate vote on President Bush’s nomination of John Bolton as UN ambassador, switched his registration to independent after losing re-election in ’06. Another renegade Republican who signed on with Obama last week was New York attorney Rita Hauser, who was a Republican for John Kerry in ’04.

HAVING FAITH IN McCAIN: A recent study by a group specializing in research related to spiritual development may explain why, despite the obvious pro-Democratic slant of the national media, John McCain is locked in a very tight contest with Barack Obama. According to a study by the Barna Group, Obama leads among those likeliest to vote 43% to 34%. But that lead is a major decline for Obama since June, when Barma’s survey nationwide gave the Democratic hopeful a 50% to 35% lead over McCain among likeliest voters. “The bright spots for Sen. McCain,” concludes Barna’s report, “are the support from evangelicals (among whom he holds a 61%-to-17% lead), the notable shift away from Sen. Obama among several key faith communities, and the increased share of undecided voters since the beginning of June.” Barna, which has been analyzing voting related to spiritual matters since 1984, says that these realignments “reflect a softening of support for Sen. Obama more than a surge of allegiance to the Arizona Republican” — a strong hint that McCain might want to talk more about issues of interest to voters of faith.

WHO FOR U.S. ATTORNEY? As the Bush Administration tries to fill U.S. Attorney offices long vacant since the controversy over how the former attorneys were removed, one recent appointment set off alarm bells among Michigan Republicans. Terry Berg, a former assistant U.S. attorney who headed the state’s High-Tech Crime Unit under Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm when she was state attorney general, was tapped as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Berg, who succeeds outgoing U.S. Attorney Steve Murphy (who was recently confirmed as a U.S. District Court judge), left the attorney general’s office when Republican Mike Cox succeeded Granholm as AG in 2003 and has contributed to Granholm’s campaigns at least four times. Along with the Bush Administration’s passing over known conservatives such as First Assistant U.S. Attorney John Tuckel and Assistant State Atty. Gen. Tom Cameron, one Michigan Republican complained to HUMAN EVENTS that Berg was now being put in position to run for attorney general in 2010 when Cox must step down after two terms.

LANDRIEU HOLDS UP KATRINA LAWMAN: As the August 29 third anniversary of the most costly natural disaster in U.S. history draws near, the prosecutor who heads up the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task force has been one busy lawman. David R. Dugas, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Louisiana, has so far brought 892 indictments on charges of corruption and fraud in the hurricane recovery process. On March 19, the President nominated Dugas for a vacancy on the U.S. District Court. But as Congress adjourned, the nomination still languished in the Senate Judiciary Committee, thanks to Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu. The American Bar Association has given Dugas its highest rating and Republican Sen. David Vitter is a strong supporter of the Katrina prosecutor’s nomination.

WHY WHITE HOUSE WON’T CALL CONGRESS BACK: Republican House members were disappointed the President refuses to call Congress back into session to deal with energy legislation, so HUMAN EVENTS Political Editor John Gizzi asked Press Secretary Dana Perino why the White House did not want a special session. “[Y]ou call them back into session and then they still do nothing, which has been their motto over the past several months,” Perino told Gizzi, “But we think that there is value in members of Congress going back to their districts and getting an earful from their constituents when it comes to energy policy in the United States.

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