Sunday, June 03, 2001

Money talks

Bush helps keep Taft in office

        We're not sure what Emily Post would say on the subject, but if you have a politician to whom you owe a debt of thanks and want to follow the proper etiquette, you can't go wrong with the following advice:

        Give him money.

        The more money, the better.

        George W. Bush learned politics on his pappy's knee; and one of the things he learned was that, in politics, good will is colored green.

        Maybe that explains why this Thursday, in the suburban Cincinnati home of developer William Brisben, the president's secretary of commerce, Donald Evans, will be the featured guest at a political fund-raising event to help the re-election campaign of Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and the Ohio Republican Party.

Keep the zeroes coming
        Mr. Evans, who raised a gazillion dollars for the son of his old friend and former president last year, should be a pretty good draw for Mr. Taft and the Ohio GOP.

        Most of the people in attendance, you can be sure, will be engaged in commerce of some sort or another, and they will no doubt be happy to write checks trailing zeroes for the privilege of noshing with the man who is secretary of commerce.

        Mr. Taft is up for re-election next year. It is difficult at this point to judge how much trouble he might have pulling off a second term. Even with the grumbling from some Ohio GOP leaders about the Taft “leadership” style and a shaky economy putting the pinch on state services, no clear Democratic challenger has emerged.

        But better to have a big pile of cash just in case.

Taft credited
        Now, the political people in the Bush White House have more than a few reasons to want Mr. Taft and the Ohio Republican to have a healthy bank account.

        You might credit the utter hopelessness of the Gore-Lieberman campaign in Ohio for the fact that Ohio went Republican in last fall's presidential election for the first time since 1988.

        But Bush people give much of the credit to Mr. Taft's political organization and the Ohio GOP for creating the 165,000 vote Bush margin.

        Without it, Ohio's 21 electoral votes would have gone to Al Gore; and we could have skipped the Florida chad business altogether.

        Even more important, the Taft organization and the Ohio GOP were credited 14 months earlier with beating back John McCain, who, until the Ohio primary, looked like he might be able to take Mr. Bush out for the GOP nomination.

Keeping Republican power
        All of this would be enough to convince the president to send his chief political fund raiser to Cincinnati to mine for the governor the seemingly bottomless depths of Cincinnati's Republican money pile.

        But, just like governors, presidents like to be re-elected too.

        So, with the 2004 presidential election in mind, it makes sense for George W. Bush to want to make sure the Republican governor is re-elected this year and the state party organization is hitting on all cylinders.

        A president who ran second in the popular vote and won because of some confused Floridian voters does not want to see an Ohio with the Democrats in charge when 2004 rolls around.

        So, you see, he's not sending Donald Evans just to be polite.

       Howard Wilkinson covers politics. He can be reached at 768-8388 or via e-mail at


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