May 12, 2006 — -- Little in U.S. politics is quite as uncomfortable as the cold shoulder.
That's what the Bush brothers -- the president and Florida governor -- are giving their onetime champion Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla.
Harris really wants to run for Senate this year. She's pledged to spend $10 million of her own inheritance on the race. Few think she can win, though, so for months behind the scenes the Bushes have been trying unsuccessfully to chase Harris out of the race and recruit someone stronger.
Now, their rejection is quite public.
"I just don't believe she can win," Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said this week. Harris was elected in 2002 to her first term in Congress, representing the 13th District of Florida.
One reason for her unpopularity -- the Florida recount. Almost six years ago, Harris put her popularity on the line to help the Bush brothers as Florida's secretary of state. After all, despite being the top election official in the state, she also had co-chaired the Bush for President Florida operation in 2000.
She certified the vote for Bush on the timeline the Bush campaign wanted. In fact, she wanted to ignore a judge's order to delay her certification of the election at least a day, but was talked out of ignoring that order by her lawyers.
Behind the scenes, Harris did her own machinations. She sent underling Kerey Carpenter to cozy up to a vote-counting judge, Charles Burton of Palm Beach County, and encourage him to seek advice from Harris' office, without telling him that once the county canvassing board did so Harris' opinion would be binding.
She retained ChoicePoint to remove felons from the voting rolls, ignoring complaints for years that the firm had continuously removed legitimate voters, ones who often had ethnic names.
For her decisions, the Gore for President campaign spread malicious rumors about her personal life, and she was continuously mocked for her makeup and appearance. Some liberal commentators likened her to the evil Cruella de Vil from Disney's "101 Dalmatians."
With all of this water-carrying, you might think the Bush brothers today would be more appreciative.
What's a Senate nomination between friends? After all, other Republican recount figures have been rewarded -- former Palm Beach County butterfly ballot-watcher John Bolton is U.N. ambassador and Bush lawyer Ted Olson became solicitor general.
Some of the energetic protesters outside the Miami-Dade County canvassing board landed plum administration jobs, including new White House deputy chief of staff Joel Kaplan. And on and on.
But one belle was left out of the ball.
Bush backers say Harris is so polarizing she'll hurt the Florida GOP, but other Republicans acknowledge in soft whispers that, were it not for Harris, Bush may not be in such a kingmaker -- or queenmaker -- position.
A cruel -- or Cruella -- irony.