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GOP governors worry about voter backlash

By wire services
Published February 28, 2006

WASHINGTON - Republican governors are openly worrying that the Bush administration's latest stumbles - from the natural disaster of Hurricane Katrina to those of its own making on prescription drugs and ports security - are taking an election-year toll on the party back home.

The GOP governors acknowledge that the series of gaffes threatens to undermine public confidence in President Bush's ability to provide security, which has long been his greatest strength among voters.

"You've got solid conservatives coming up speaking like they haven't before, it's likely that something's going on at the grass roots," said Republican Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

r The unease was clear in interviews with more than a dozen governors over the weekend, including nearly half of the Republicans attending the winter meeting of the National Governors Association. But Republican governors gave the president a rock-star welcome at a Monday night reception that added $9.6-million to GOP campaign coffers.

Also, Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld offered private assurances to governors over plans to make cuts to the National Guard. Republican and Democratic governors said discussions are just beginning on Guard units.

Proposed budget would hurt veteran care

WASHINGTON - At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half - if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

But the White House doesn't seem serious about the numbers. It says the long-term budget numbers don't represent actual administration policies. Similar cuts assumed in earlier budgets have been reversed.

Officials: Work remains to protect nation

WASHINGTON - A year after a sweeping government reorganization began, the agencies charged with protecting the United States against terrorist attacks remain troubled by high-level turnover, overlapping responsibilities and bureaucratic rivalry, according to former and current officials.

Progress has been made, most of the officials say, toward one critical goal: the sharing of terrorist threat information from all agencies at the National Counterterrorism Center. But many argue that the biggest restructuring of spy agencies in half a century has bloated the bureaucracy, adding boxes to the government organization chart without producing clearly defined roles.

White House rebuffs calls for special counsel

WASHINGTON - The White House on Monday rejected the call by more than a dozen House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration's eavesdropping program.

President Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan said those Democrats should instead investigate the source of the unauthorized disclosure of the classified program, which "has given the enemy some of our playbook."

Hillary Clinton says Rove obsesses about her

ALBANY, N.Y. - Reacting to a new book quoting Karl Rove as saying she will be the 2008 Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that President Bush's chief political strategist "spends a lot of time obsessing about me."

Clinton, D-N.Y., said Rove, national GOP chairman Ken Mehlman and other Republicans are using her to divert attention from Republican problems.

"What they're hoping is that all of their missteps, which are now numbering in the hundreds, are going to somehow be overlooked," she said.

Escaped killer had "romantic getaway'

ATHENS, Tenn. - A convicted killer and the dog trainer accused of helping him escape from prison in an animal crate spent part of their two weeks as fugitives in a Tennessee cabin on what witnesses described as a "romantic getaway."

John Manard, 27, and Toby Young, 48, waived extradition in separate court hearings and will be returned to Kansas.

Young, who is married, said that she hadn't been allowed to make phone calls and hadn't spoken to her family.

WWII pilot and author Scott dies at 97

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. - Retired Brig. Gen. Robert L. Scott, the World War II flying ace who told of his exploits in his book God is My Co-Pilot , died Monday. He was 97.

The Georgia native rose to nationwide prominence during World War II as a fighter ace, then with his bestselling 1943 book, made into a 1945 movie.

Man guilty in shooting of high school coach

CANTON, Texas - An East Texas jury on Monday found a man guilty of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in the shooting of a high school football coach.

Jeff Doyal Robertson faces a sentence of two to 20 years.

[Last modified February 28, 2006, 00:36:03]

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