Monday, December 8, 2003

Inside Washington

Bush losing support from conservatives

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington D.C. bureau

President Bush is a "fraud" and a "disaster." His grade is a "D." He is undoing the Reagan revolution. And those are local Republicans talking.

That anger from fiscal conservatives is a threat to President Bush's re-election.

That's because Bush needs to win Ohio, and for that he needs a big turnout of enthusiastic Republicans from Greater Cincinnati.

But in the wake of enormous spending growth and the addition of a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, fiscally conservative Republicans are wondering just what they voted for in 2000.

•  "I'm not happy at all," says state Rep. Tom Brinkman of Mount Lookout. "The spending is out of control and somebody's going to have to pay for it, and it's my children, and I don't think that's right."

•  "I don't think there's any question that under the Bush leadership, under the Taft leadership, and particularly illustrated by the Medicare bill, the idea that we are going to be a party to fight for smaller government and lower taxes appears to have been broadly abandoned," says Chris Finney, a Hyde Park lawyer and vice chairman of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes.

•  "As far as this fiscal conservative is concerned, I'm doing everything I can to expose Bush for the fraud that he is," adds Jim Urling, the group's chairman.

Hamilton County Commissioner Phil Heimlich, who gives Bush a D grade, said Republicans running Washington are reckless, spending money they don't have like a family living off its credit cards and leaving the children to pay the bills.

"This administration has presided over one the most massive expansions of the federal government in history," he said, citing the Medicare benefit and the No Child Left Behind Act, which set standards for every local school.

Rep. Mike Pence, a Republican who represents Dearborn County, Ind., said growth of government under Bush could demoralize the GOP base next November.

Pence and Heimlich say they will vote for Bush because the Democratic alternative would be even worse. But the worry isn't Republicans voting for the Democrat. It's Republicans staying home.

CHOCOLATE WAR: Anderson Township native Brandon Partridge recently gave up a job many would fantasize about. He was a Washington lobbyist for Nestle - a post that came with all the chocolate you could eat.

"Yes, we did get free chocolate. That was one of the perks. We gave it away to people willy-nilly," said Partridge, 29, a graduate of St. Xavier High School and University of Cincinnati. He now lives in Washington with his wife, Caroline Davis.

Partridge started a new job in October as a lobbyist for Stateside Associates, which helps clients lobby state governments.

ERIC THE SMART: State Sen. Eric Fingerhut, the Democratic long shot trying to unseat Sen. George Voinovich next year, finally got some good news: Columbus Monthly magazine rated him one of the smartest legislators in the state house - and put him on its cover.

Polls show Fingerhut badly trailing Voinovich, one of the most popular politicians in Ohio. Which brings up one question: If Fingerhut's so smart, why is he running against Voinovich?


Carl Weiser covers Washington news for the Enquirer. E-mail or call (202) 906-8134.

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