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As Sanders thinks about running for Senate, the DSCC polls the race and finds him in a winning position, with higher favorability, and viewed as more attentive to issues Jeffords considers his.

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The package came signed, sealed and delivered, last week, from the Washington, D.C., war room of the Democrat Party.

"Dear Bernie,

You say you don't want to risk giving up your secure House seat to take a shot at Jim "Rape is a Private Matter" Jeffords. We understand your concerns. But here's the results of the poll we had the Mellman Group do for us last weekend. Not to worry, it's on our nickel. Bernie, just look at the numbers. Feel better now?

Sincerely,

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

PS. Hillary says 'hi.'

PPS. Have you thought of what committees you'd like to serve on when you get to the Senate?

The DSCC dropped $15,000 on the poll to learn once and for all the lay of the land in Vermont. After all, Democrats Ed Flanagan, Jan Backus, Peter Shumlin and Elizabeth Ready have been sniffing around D.C. lately. Some even suggested a three-way race would play out well for the Democrat candidate. Now the folks at party central know that's not the case.

Bernie Sanders beats Jeezum Jim Jeffords 45-40 in a head-to-head. And when Jeffords' 1994 opponent Jan Backus is tossed into the mix, Bernie still wins 40-35-8.

According to Mellman's analysis of the poll results, "Jeffords' vulnerability stems not from his own weakness, but from the enormously high regard Vermont voters have for Congressman Sanders."

Mellman found that "Sanders' advantage is evident on measures of key image traits as well. Sanders does better than Jeffords on every positive dimension. For example, 28 percent say the phrase 'cares about people like you' describes Jeffords 'very well,' but 47 percent say that about Sanders. The congressman even leads on what Jeffords considers his core issues, like education. Twenty-three percent say 'would work to improve education' describes Jeffords 'very well,' compared to 37 percent for Sanders."

The DSCC poll found Bernie's strength is among women voters, where he leads Jeezum Crow by a 12-point margin. Men favor Jeffords by just one point. And Ol' Bemardo's favorability (72 percent) was higher than both Jeffords (67 percent) and Gov. Howard Dean (69 percent)!

Last week, Jeezum Jim returned to the scene of his February 26 crime — The Mark Johnson Show on WKDR. That's where he uttered his infamous comment when questioned about Juanita Broderick's charge that Bill Clinton sexually assaulted her 20 years ago. Jeffords portrayed the alleged rape claim as being a "private" matter between Clinton and Broderick.

He was taken to the woodshed by a Republican caller. Steve Ciardelli told Jeezum he thought the senator's response to the Broderick question showed 'a complete lack of sensitivity and political savvy. I keep hearing you say 'when I was a prosecutor,' but I'm sure people now understand why women were afraid to report rapes 20 years ago, when people had attitudes such as yours."

"Well, I blew it," replied Jeffords. "There's no question about it. I made some statements on the program that I wished I hadn't. That's not the way I feel."

Crow sure has been a popular menu item lately. Not a Box of Rocks — Remember how Republican congressional candidate Mark Candon was ridiculed during the fall campaign for his support for a Star Wars missile shield? Talk about out of touch!

Guess what?

Last week, Star Wars passed the U.S. Senate 97-3 (Jeffords for, Patrick Leahy against) and whizzed through the House 317-105 (Sanders against). What the hell is going on?

Asked if he felt vindicated by the vote, "Cando" Candon boastfully replied, "It's the first of many vindications. Imagine what a tax cut could do?"


Dogs of a Different Color — Every dog will have its day, and these days at the Statehouse, the Blue Dog Democrats are having theirs. Reps. Michael "Field Marshall" Flaherty of South Burlington, Hank "Semper Fi" Gretkowski and James "Skippy" McNamara of Burlington, Michael "Trooper" Vinton of Colchester, and Rene "Smoky" Blanchard of Essex are enjoying the spotlight. The fact is, the "Gang of Three" — Speaker Michael Obuchowski, Democratic Leader John Tracy and Matt Dunne, the Whip — can no longer call the tune the way Democratic leaders have done since Ralph Wright took over as speaker in 1985. It's all about mathematics. The times they are a changin'.

(By the way, we're having a codicil put in our will so that in the event of yours truly's passing, the Blue Dogs will be put down — in a humane fashion, of course — unless Probate Judge Susan Fowler rescues them.)

But let's not ignore the Red Dog Republicans. Reps. Tom Little of Shelburne, Gordon Bristol of Brattleboro, Marion Milne of Washington, Rich Westman of Cambridge and Bob Kinsey of Craftsbury all got premium committee assignments because they dance so sprightly to the liberal polka tunes played by Obie's Philharmonic Orchestra.

And last week's "joke of the week" in GOP circles was this fictitious missive: "Democrats announced today that they are changing their emblem from a donkey to a condom because it more clearly reflects their party's political stance. A condom stands up to inflation, halts production, discourages cooperation, protects a bunch of dicks and gives one a sense of security while screwing others:"

The best is yet to come.


Tax Cut Debate — Should be an illuminating debate Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m. in the Senate chamber when "Point-Counterpoint" focuses on which state tax should be cut in these heady surplus times. "Should the Legislature Support the Governor's Call for an Income Tax Cut?"

Echoing our Democrat governor's position will be two Republicans: House GOP Whip John Labarge and Rep. Connie "The Eagle Has Landed" Houston. The "no" side will be composed of two Democrats: House Democratic Whip Matt Dunne and Ways and Means Chairman Oreste Valsangiacomo Sr. As always, admission is free of charge.


What's Up? — Recent favorable mention of yours truly in the Burlington Free Press is certainly out of character for the local Gannett-chain daily. I mean, isn't this the same paper that marched into Chittenden Superior Court five years ago last month seeking a gag order to prevent Inside Track's coverage of a lawsuit brought by the paper's former star reporter, Paul Teetor? (Teetor got a six-figure settlement and was last reported to be in the Los Angeles area writing screenplays and teaching tennis.)

Judge Matt Katz laughed aloud over the odd First Amendment circumstance of a newspaper seeking a gag order to prevent newspaper coverage of a news story involving the newspaper in question. In its summer 1994 issue, the Columbia Journalism Review bestowed upon the Freeps the national attention it so richly deserved "for an act of professional treason."

Nobody's said anything about a truce.

Long live a free Costco ... sorry, Kosovo.

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