The Web's Best Political News Summary: Feb. 7: Let's Get Workable:

The Des Moines Register 's Yepsen finds new reasons to crow about the Republican gubernatorial primary. lawyer Doug Gross, a late addition, may well be a better challenger to Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack than the other candidates, according to Dean Yepsen. Many Republicans seem to think so. ( http://desmoinesregister.com/news/stories/c5917686/17252829.html )

Good-government folks like to denigrate state sales taxes. They're old hat — out of touch with a modern economy — and too sensitive to recessions and industry downturns.

In several states, Florida included, they are the primary source of government revenue and not easily reformed or changed. But desperate budget times call for desperate measures.

State Senate President John McKay wants to modernize the sales taxes and has an ambitious plan to do so.

He'd slash the rate from 6 percent to 4.5 percent and make up for the lost money by getting rid of lots of exemptions, which would hit, among others, lawn services, hair cuts, PRINT AND BROADCAST advertising, and religious institutions selling things.

But Gov. Jeb Bush, perhaps eager to avoid adding a controversial position to his portfolio and taking on that powerful coalition, is apparently not willing to endorse much, if any, change to the tax structure.

This Miami Herald story gets the political angle, but it doesn't say much about McKay's plan or much about the economics of the tax. ( http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/state/2620010.htm

In Pennsylvania, state auditor Robert Casey Jr., began his TV advertising campaign; he's running for the Democratic gubernatorial nod against former Philly mayor Ed Rendell in one of many brutal Democrat statewide primaries around America. The Philadelphia Inquirer says the ads are designed to prove to voters that Casey is his own man--and not a shadow of his very popular former governor father. ( http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/2621988.htm

Finally, Mr. DiStaso! Gov. Jeanne Shaheen admitted yesterday she is, indeed, running for Senate. The bright young people who have moved to the greater Concord metroplex to staff her campaign can breathe a sigh of relief. ( http://www.theunionleader.com/articles_show.html )?article=8696

The National Conference of Lieutenant Governors kicks off their three-day meeting today in Washington.

Bush Administration Strategy/Personality

We wonder how many people at Tom Ridge's National Press Club speech today will have read this New York Times headline: "Ridge Facing Major Doubts on His Ability." It's that "major" that really hurts. ( http://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/07/national/07RIDG.html )

The story has something rare for this Administration: some on-the-record griping by senior people (the heads of INS and Customs) about a colleague. And of course a background quote or two being even more critical. Plus some hand-wringing from the usual suspects about how Ridge can't possibly succeed without more statutory authority, and about how he isn't bowing down low enough to Congress.

All in all, though, given the mindset against him in much of Washington back when he started, and given the press' inclination to focus on the negative, and that he has made some public errors in the job (which the article doesn't really list), we think the piece isn't so bad for the former Pennsylvania governor.

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