Monday, February 2, 2004

Foe finds flaw in Bunning's recognition

Inside Washington

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WASHINGTON - You might not think Democrats would trumpet a poll showing that the party's candidate for Senate was practically unknown in Kentucky.

Or a poll showing that the Republican would whomp their guy in an election, 52 percent to 23 percent.

But the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee said their poll of 600 Kentuckians this month shows that Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo can beat Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.

Bunning is the national Democrats' No. 2 target after Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski, committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.

What excited Democrats enough to summon the media for a session on the race was Bunning's ratings among Kentuckians: not awful, but mediocre.

• While Mongiardo's name was recognized by 12 percent of Kentuckians, just 57 percent of Kentuckians have heard of Bunning even after five years as a senator. ("Extremely weak," read the analysis by pollster The Mellman Group.)

• Only 42 percent have a favorable view of him. ("Quite mediocre," especially compared with 65 percent for Sen. Mitch McConnell).

• And 38 percent approve of how he's doing. ("Lukewarm," especially compared with 54 percent for McConnell.)

"He's got a low-grade fever. We can make that into a cold, or he can recover," said Frederick Yang, pollster for Mongiardo, a surgeon from Hazard.

Senatorial campaign committee members think highly enough of Mongiardo that they endorsed him earlier this month even though he has a primary opponent. But they note that he has to run a great campaign, appealing especially to rural voters, and raise oodles of money.

Bunning is sitting on $3.2 million for the campaign.

"We're off and running," said Bunning, who plans to open his campaign office this week. He said he knew he would be the Democrats' target since he eked out a 6,766-vote victory in 1998 over Scotty Baesler.

"We'll be ready," he said.

REPORT CARDS: The American Conservative Union put out its report cards for 2003. And out of Congress' 535 members, only two got perfect scores.

One was Rep. Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who represents Franklin County and northern Dearborn County, along the Interstate 74 corridor. Pence's neighbor to the south, Seymour Democrat Baron Hill, had the lowest score in the delegation, just 36.

The rest of the scores in the delegation ranged from 96 for Westwood Republican Steve Chabot to 72 for Kentucky Democrat Ken Lucas. They were graded on 24 votes, with higher scores for those who voted to cut taxes, shrink government, oppose abortion and cut regulations, according to the group's spokesman, Ian Walters.

STREETS OF CINCINNATI: What is it with government officials who throw out Cincinnati as a random example of an American city? A top terrorism official did it a few months ago, and now the Drug Enforcement Administration's top man in Colombia did it again.

David Gaddis told The Associated Press last month: "It takes a certain expertise to get the drug from where it grows in the soil into the streets of Cincinnati, Ohio."

Must have seen the movie Traffic one too many times.


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

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