Bob Torricelli the senior

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Bob Torricelli, the senior Senator from New Jersey, is now frequently getting named in press stories as the Democrat most likely to go along with Bush’s tax cut proposal. (Of course, Zell Miller has already signed on entirely. But he’s now in another category altogether.) The question is, why?

Yes, Torch is up for reelection in two years. But he’s from New Jersey, i.e., deep in Gore country. What’s more, he really has no obvious competition for the job.

So for him, there’s no obvious skin-saving calculus at work, like there is for Mary Landrieu or Max Baucus.

So, again, why?

I’d say there’re are a few factors at work here. Torricelli is a centrist and a tax-cutting type. He was on this game in the final session of the last congress. (You’ll remember he’s also come up with what must be the most bogus and foolhardy trigger proposal there is out there.) He’s very much a money Democrat — a big fund-raiser, in the more grievous sense of the phrase. And he wants to hold on to that ‘centrist’ credential — even though most of the Dems with unimpeachable centrist credentials have no difficulty saying they think the Bush plan is a disaster.

But I suspect the biggest factor is that Torricelli wants to be a player. Simple as that.

Here’s the question, though. If I were Torricelli, and I had federal prosecutors breathing down my neck for all sorts of fund-raising shenanigans, I’m not sure I’d be going out of my way to stick my finger in my party’s eye. Doesn’t he need all the friends he can get?

Obviously, warm feelings from Tom Daschle and Ted Kennedy aren’t going to keep the Feds from indicting Torricelli. But when you’re in the soup you need all the friends you can get — especially if you want to weather an indictment, get acquitted, and come back politically.

It’s common knowledge that Torricelli doesn’t have many friends in the Senate. Actually, let’s restate that. It’s common knowledge that Torricelli doesn’t really have any friends in the Senate. His fund-raising prowess made him immune from almost any sort of criticism from his colleagues. But no friends really. And this is especially so, considering he’s no longer head of the DSCC — the Senate Dems campaign and fund-raising arm.

Could Torch be cozying up to Bush because he now controls the Justice department? Maybe. But I’ve never bought into this kind of reasoning. Didn’t believe it during the last administration, and don’t believe it now. And if that’s his angle, that’s just foolish.

If I were him I’d be sticking with my friends.

Think about it, Bob.

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