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Majority Leader's Leader

By Robert Novak

WASHINGTON -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shrugged off White House complaints that the Senate's delay is curtailing U.S. monitoring of international terrorists by putting the blame on a fellow Democrat. "I can't control Feingold," he told a Republican leader.

Sen. Russell Feingold, a liberal reformer, has rejected the Reid-backed compromise on the legislation authorizing the government to eavesdrop on suspected terrorists in overseas communications. Feingold has complained that the compromise "does not have adequate safeguards to protect Americans' privacy."

Reid's private comments to Republicans reflect his continuing complaint that the partisan deadlock in the Senate is caused by stubborn ideologues in both parties.


Old Washington hands attending Fred Thompson's Republican presidential fund-raiser at the J.W. Marriott hotel in the nation's capital last week found few people there whom they recognized.

A lot of out-of-towners, especially from Thompson's home state of Tennessee, came in for the event. That meant the major Republican contributors in Washington, including early givers to Sen. John McCain's campaign, are holding off on backing Thompson until they see how he performs as an announced candidate in September.

However, the VIP reception at the Thompson event included a few big conservative names, including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist (who maintains neutrality among all candidates) and activist/filmmaker Dave Bossie (who is an overt Thompson backer).


Sen. Chuck Hagel, the Senate's toughest Republican critic of President Bush's war policy, has not ruled out a campaign for the GOP presidential nomination and will use the August recess of Congress to make up his mind.

A major reason for the unexpectedly strong professions of support for Rep. Ron Paul's libertarian-conservative candidacy is that he is the only announced Republican presidential candidate opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Hagel as an anti-war candidate might attract a broader base of support than Paul. He has received many offers of financial support should he run.

Hagel must decide what to do in 2008: to run for president, to run for Senate re-election, or to get out of politics. The betting in the Senate Republican cloakroom is that he will retire, but Hagel has given no signal of his intentions and tells friends that he has yet to make a decision.


Former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen's husband, Bill, is privately telling supporters there is a 70 percent chance that she will be the Democratic candidate opposing Republican Sen. John Sununu for re-election in New Hampshire next year.

Polls show Shaheen, who lost to Sununu by a narrow margin in 2002, way ahead in a 2008 rematch. Sununu and Sen. Judd Gregg are the last surviving major Republican office holders in New Hampshire following the Democratic sweep there last year.

Sununu narrowly leads the two Democrats running for the Senate race under the assumption that Shaheen will not run: Katrina Swett, wife of former Rep. Dick Swett, and Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand.


Gloomy top Republicans in Virginia are privately predicting that a man named "Warner" will be elected to the Senate from their state next year, but add that he is likely to be a Democrat.

The state's GOP leaders not long ago were sure that 80-year-old Republican Sen. John Warner would seek a sixth term in 2008, but now they think he probably will not. That would open the door for Democratic former Gov. Mark Warner (no relation) to enter the race. Any Republican would be an underdog against the Democratic Warner.

Rep. Tom Davis is the leading prospect if John Warner does not run, but conservatives are seeking somebody to oppose Davis's nomination. Rep. Bob Goodlatte has turned down a bid to run, and Rep. Eric Cantor has been approached. Whether a primary election or a state convention picks the nominee, the contest probably would make it more difficult for the Republicans in facing a popular Democrat.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate Inc.

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