THE BIG PITCH: The Jeffords' defection - who are the real winnersand losers on Capitol Hill?

SENATOR DON RIEGLE, Chairman, government relations, APCO Worldwide,

Washington, DC

It seems clear that the White House and Senate Republican leaders were

both caught flat-footed. While it's doubtful that any late GOP

initiative to dissuade Jeffords would have worked; it seems that too

little was attempted - and much too late. Jeffords' image is improved.

Although he has received anonymous death threats from those angry with

his move, Vermonters - who count the most - generally support his

decision. Tom Daschle and the newly enfranchised Democratic chairmen now

have their first chance in six or so years to show what they can do. If

they build a record of achievement, their image will be greatly

enhanced. The greatest potential gain will come in the area of

bipartisan policy achievement. While difficult to achieve, it's what the

country wants and needs. In the Senate, Republicans, Democrats and

Independent Jim Jeffords will all rise in public esteem if they can

bridge partisan differences and make real progress together in improving

our national condition. Those who cause it to happen will all grow in


CHARLES DOLAN, SVP, government relations, Ketchum, Washington, DC

In Washington, image and perception are as important as reality. Sen.

Jeffords appears to have weathered his defection very well. The people

of Vermont support him 67% to 27%. Jeffords is the reigning hero of the

Democratic Party, but a pariah to right wing Republicans and the

conservative press. Majority leader Tom Daschle skillfully leveraged

Jeffords' frustrations with the Republicans, becoming the first

opposition leader ever to move from the minority to the majority as the

result of a party defection. But President Bush's image took a hit. The

proverbial buck stops at the White House and many question Bush's

political skills after reports that he was blindsided by the defection.

Bush just learned the hard way that every senator is a king. Trent

Lott's ham-fisted approach cost him not only his leadership position but

also control of the Senate agenda. His image as a parliamentary leader

has been damaged. In Washington, losing is never good for one's


LANNY DAVIS, Partner, Patton Boggs, Washington, DC

The White House damage control strategy in response to the Jeffords

defection was a perfect example of breaking every fundamental rule of

effective crisis management. "Get out in front and be proactive" - Not.

They were blindsided and ignored obvious amber (if not red) lights

before it went public. Example: There was a report on CNN the Friday

before the announcement, yet no one in the White House saw it or took it

seriously. "Stay on message," "Don't deny the obvious," "Turn a negative

into a positive." Not, not, not. Messages from the White House included:

"No big deal." (Right!), "We've been reaching out already - Jeffords is

quirky (or, whispered, a traitor)," and "It's better to be in opposition

anyway." Obviously the lesson to be learned here is, simply put, admit

the obvious and move on: "Yes, we're disappointed. It's a setback. We

need to do better. We respect Sen. Jeffords. Now we need to reach out

and prove to the American people that we are a centrist-moderate

administration that truly believes in 'compassionate conservativism,'

etc." Maybe that's how they'll handle it next time - say, when Sen.

McCain defects. Stay tuned.

JAMIE MOELLER, Managing Director, global public affairs practice, Ogilvy

PR, Washington, DC

Senator Jim Jeffords' decision to leave the Republican Party set off a

domino effect that created a new power structure in Washington, DC. Like

most events there, Jeffords' move had pundits assigning winners and

losers. From my point of view, the winners are the 2004 presidential

contenders: Daschle (D-SD), Kerry (D-MA), Edwards (D-NC), and maybe most

of all, Sen. McCain (R-AZ). McCain can once again claim that the Bush

Republicans are out of step with the voters. The obvious losers are

President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Trent Lott, who are now forced

to compete with the Democrats over legislative priorities. In the end,

maybe the person who has lost the most is Justice Scalia, whose chances

of becoming Chief Justice have greatly diminished. And the group that

has benefited the most from this story is the group that loves a good

story? The national media.

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