Morning Political Note: Jan. 24

Chalk it up to her impressive press staff (who have figured out how to handle the special rhythms of New York, Washington, and her life); chalk it up to her own, often underrated skills; or chalk it up to the president's success in changing the tone of Washington, but you have to marvel at the incredibly good press coverage that goes to the junior senator of New York (aka Hillary Rodham Clinton). For a woman who used to get routinely negative coverage, this is indeed an amazing turn of events.

The latest example is a New York Times piece that her crack press staff probably will e-mail to us later today. Memo to Jim Kennedy: We've already read it. The prototypical sentence: "But over the last year, Mrs. Clinton has surprised many of her colleagues with a series of personal gestures that have served not only to soften her image but also to help her fit into the clubby world of the Senate, where schmoozing and one-on-one politics go a long way." ( )

USA Today runs a second review of the Tuesday night debate between California's Republican gubernatorial candidates after getting some Riordan strategists to admit anonymously that Richard Riordan's performance was "shaky." ( )

Meanwhile, California political strategist Dan Schnur, formerly of the Riordan campaign, seeks to re-establish himself as an unaffiliated GOP commentator with an LA Times op-ed on how all three candidates are botching the party's chance to get Gov. Gray Davis. ( )

Roll Call covers the Democratic National Committee's scaling back of its financial commitment to the party's House redistricting effort, from as much as $13 million to $1.5 million, as a sign of confidence that Democrats have gone a long way toward stymying the GOP's chances to carve out an advantage heading into the midterm elections. The Republican House campaign committee beats its chest spinning this as Democrats recognizing that it would be a waste of money because of how well the GOP is going to do. We wonder if it might have anything to do with the DNC's finances. ( )

Washington insiders watch closely every jot and tickle in 2002 Senate race developments so, per usual, we bring you the key ones from this cycle:

In a slight change from the norm, the Republican Senate campaign committee raised $53.5 million in 2001 — about what both the Republican National Committee and the GOP House campaign committee each spent — and only spent $31 million of that. ( )

The National Federation of Independent Business will grant former Rep. Jim Talent its first U.S. Senate endorsement of 2002, in Kansas City, Mo., today.

The Torch has a friend in Senate Judicary ranking member Orrin Hatch, who has called on the Senate Ethics Committee to dump its probe of the senator from New Jersey. ( )

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