Race Issue Could Shock Bush

Electoral ‘Third Rail’

With Bush practically in the White House, the Democrats will quickly begin a two-year blitz to win back Congress. If the stock market continues to tank, and a recession sets in, next spring’s “hard landing” will become the launching pad for that campaign.

The surest missile in the Democratic arsenal will be a massive civil rights suit against Florida arguing that minority voters were denied the right to vote due to intimidation and fraud. Such a suit could be a test of Dubya’s status as smirking poster boy for the Johnny Reb South, plunging his presidency into a racial quagmire. Over the weekend the Justice Department dispatched attorneys to Florida to scrutinize the situation.

A civil rights case could guarantee protracted headlines, with Florida being forced to reorganize its election machinery under U.S. supervision. As Jesse Jackson puts it, “If Bush is one rail, and Gore is another rail, then civil rights is the third rail — it’s the hot rail.”

Sleeper Suit in Seminole

Gore’s Last Gasp

The sleeper in Florida is a suit scheduled to go to trial this Wednesday in Seminole County. Democrats want to dismiss 15,000 absentee ballots. That would cost Bush about 4800 votes statewide — enough to give Gore the state’s 25 electoral votes and the presidency.

The Seminole case boils down to whether Republican supervisor of elections Sandra Goard treated absentee ballots equally. In a deposition, Goard said she rejected requests for absentee ballots if they did not contain voter ID numbers, as required by law. But when a Republican official asked her to allow GOP workers to add numbers to Republican applications, she agreed. Goard said her office sorted through Republican application rejects so they could be revised, but left others in a discard box. She acknowledged receiving a complaint from Bob Poe, county Democratic chair, on October 30. She said she couldn’t remember what she told him. Poe says she told him to “go fly a kite.”

Party On

“I may not have been the greatest president, but I’ve had the most fun eight years.” — Bill Clinton at a book party last week in Washington

The Shrub Also Rises

Bush Cabinet Short List

After Monday’s grim rebukes to Gore in the courts, George W. Bush looks more than ever like the next president. Following is a capsule look at leading cabinet possibilities.

Colin Powell: Probable secretary of state, oft mentioned as presidential timber for either party. Former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War and architect of the massive-force policy. Sometimes strikes Republicans as weird, sounding like a liberal Democrat backing affirmative action: “Some in our party miss no opportunity to roundly and loudly condemn affirmative action that helped a few thousand black kids get an education, but you hardly hear a whimper when it’s affirmative action for lobbyists who load our federal tax code with preferences for special interests.”

Condoleezza Rice: In line to be Bush’s national security adviser. Advised George Sr. on Russia. Self-described absolutist on gun control. Says black people needed guns in Birmingham for protection when she was growing up. On why she’s a Republican: “My father joined our party because the Democrats in Jim Crow Alabama of 1952 would not register him to vote. I joined the party for different reasons. I found a party that believes that peace begins with strength.” As a little girl, thought Jesus would come back to help boost attendance at her dad’s Presbyterian church. First song she learned to play on the piano: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus!”

Lawrence Lindsey: One choice for secretary of the treasury. Key economic adviser to Dubya during the campaign. Supported McGovern in ’72. Former Harvard prof, member of Reagan-era Council of Economic Advisers, early supply-side booster, Bush appointee to the Federal Reserve Board. Currently at the American Enterprise Institute. A jocular Keynesian who promises Bush’s gargantuan tax cut will be seen as a wise “fiscal insurance policy” when recession hits next year.

Frank Keating: Oklahoma’s conservative governor. Former FBI agent who takes pride in having hunted down left-wing terrorists on the West Coast. Could well be Bush’s attorney general. His résumé includes stints as Tulsa district attorney and member of the Oklahoma legislature. President Reagan appointed him U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma. In Washington, he gained more experience as associate attorney general, overseeing the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Under Bush Sr., he served as counsel to the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. Elected governor in 1994, won praise for his handling of the Oklahoma City bomb disaster. Now in his second term as governor. Pro-life and popular among social conservatives of the Pat Robertson-Gary Bauer stripe. For a right-to-work law, backs school-choice vouchers and lower personal and corporate tax rates. Legal Times reports he pushed a partial-birth abortion ban through the state legislature in 1998, fought the Roman Catholic Church on its opposition to the death penalty, and has begun an ambitious program to cut Oklahoma’s divorce rate by one-third by 2010. Against special legal protections for homosexuals. Backs concealed-weapon laws.

If Keating doesn’t get the nod, there’s an outside chance the job could go to retiring Virginia governor James Gilmore, himself a former state attorney general, who shares Bush’s tough stands on criminal justice and the death penalty.

Marc Racicot: Could become secretary of the interior. Montana governor and the GOP’s answer to Lieberman on the Florida barricades. Popular and thought of as a coalition-building moderate. Son of a logging-camp cook, devout Catholic, high school basketball star. Made labor happy with attack on right-to-work laws. Turned Bush pit bull last summer, blaming Western wildfires on Clinton.

Stephen Goldsmith: Good bet to become secretary of Health and Human Services or Housing and Urban Development. Indianapolis mayor, credited with bringing new life to the city in part by privatizing services. Model “compassionate conservative” and chief domestic policy adviser to Bush. Key proponent of “faith-based” welfare system backed by charity tax credits and Bush’s proposed “compassion capital fund.”

Ralph Hall: Aging (77) Blue Dog Democrat leader might make it as energy secretary. The kind of Democrat Bush loves. Has been on everyone’s lips for years as the next turncoat to quit the Democratic Party. So far has successfully played both parties against each other, holding out and then voting for Dick Gephardt as speaker in hopes of eventually getting a committee chairmanship. At the same time votes repeatedly against Clinton. Campaigned for Texas conservative Republican Phil Gramm in his last Senate race.

Don Evans: Possible choice for Commerce, although he’d be a perfect Bush fit for Energy. At 54, CEO of Tom Brown, Inc., a Denver-based independent oil and gas firm, and a longtime Bush friend. Directed the Texas governor’s election campaign. Could go just about anywhere, but his real value to Bush is as a bud: “Donnie,” Laura Bush told The Washington Post, “is someone from whom George gets a lot of strength by just seeing him and sitting next to him.”

Additional reporting: Rouven Gueissaz and Theresa Crapanzano

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