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Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 1999 /6 Teves, 5760

Chris Matthews

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New Democratic leader on the horizon -- THE REPUBLICAN REVOLUTION of Newt Gingrich may have run its course. Five years after losing control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1954, the Democrats see their chance to win back a solid, sustainable majority.

The leading indicator of a Democratic comeback can be seen in the sparkling array of issues President Clinton cited in his press conference last week: HMO reform, minimum wage, "hate crimes" legislation, Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs for seniors.

"We have the issues!" declares San Francisco congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, a top candidate to join a new Democratic leadership. "The polls show the American people are with us."

Such confidence is buoyed by national opinion surveys that show the public preferring Democrat candidates for Congress. It was confirmed, Pelosi notes with pride, by the impressive caliber of Democratic candidate who met Friday's filing deadline in California.

"Where you stand on filing day is as important as the work you do on Election Day." Based upon the "heft" of her party's candidates, she sees a "four-seat pick-up" in California alone. Pelosi, a leading candidate for House Majority Whip should her party regain control, sees the same pattern nationwide.

Republicans are retiring at nearly four times the rate of Democrats, creating big opportunities for a change-over in what is now a narrow, five-seat GOP majority.

The decision by so many Republicans to retire, Pelosi argues, makes an "eloquent" statement as to which way the political tide is turning.

"Why are they retiring? Because they don't want to serve in the minority."

At 59, Nancy Pelosi is hoping to escalate her own political activity. Using her base of support in San Francisco and its surrounding high-tech industry, she is a major source of party funds nationwide. Employing the political savvy learned early in life as the daughter of a Baltimore mayor, she could be the first woman in history to enter the top ranks of Capitol Hill leadership.

Pelosi argues that her candidacy for Majority Whip will enhance the party's appeal next year. It will signal that the Democrats who regain control in 2000 will not be the same as those who lost to the Republican revolution of Newt Gingrich in 1994.

"It's very important to send a message that things will be different from the way they were before we lost the House. When I go back to Washington every week I enter a time warp.

Why are we back having a debate about stale assumptions? We have to understand the new realities. I bring in a perspective as a Californian invigorated by the entrepreneurial thinking out here."

"I could be a major force in keeping the Democrats in control of Congress."

JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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©1999, NEA