Monday, March 27, 2006

Notes from the Trail

Just passing along a couple of interesting tidbits from two Senate campaigns, one in New York and another here in Florida.

A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, witnesses told The Post yesterday.

Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen “KT” McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying: “Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures,” according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event.

“She wasn’t joking, she was very, very serious, and she also claimed that Clinton’s people were taking pictures across the street from her house in Manhattan, taking pictures from an apartment across the street from her bedroom,” added the eyewitness, who is not involved in the Senate race.

Suffolk County Republican Chairman Harry Withers, who hosted the reception in East Islip, confirmed McFarland’s paranoid statements.

“Yes, she said that,” Withers told The Post.

McFarland spokesman William O’Reilly responded that the GOP hopeful was just kidding around with her far-fetched claims.

“It was a joke, and people laughed,” O’Reilly insisted.

But three witnesses who were present said nobody in the audience cracked a smile.

“The whole room sort of went silent when she said it,” one person said. [New York Post]

And then there’s the latest from Katherine Harris, who is having trouble keeping her staff and is taking up “Onward Christian Soldiers” as her campaing song.

As Katherine Harris’ rocky Senate campaign takes an increasingly evangelical Christian bent, her remaining top campaign staffers are preparing to jump ship.

Colleagues say Harris’ closest confidante lately appears to be spiritual adviser Dale Burroughs, founder of the Biblical Heritage Institute in Bradenton.

“Dr. Dale,” as she is known among campaign staffers, describes herself as a licensed clinical pastoral counselor who counsels in behavior temperament, career, crisis and disaster, among other things.

Burroughs has been advising Harris for years, but lately has had a more prominent role as Harris stopped listening to other campaign advisers. Burroughs said she has little role in the campaign beyond helping reach out to religious voters and is merely a Bible study partner and close friend.

Friends and advisers say Harris has been deeply religious all her life, but religion recently has become a central part of her campaign. Campaign staffers warily describe Harris as leading a “Christian crusade.”

“It was always part of the background, but it was never an integral part of the campaign. It never engulfed her,” said former campaign manager Jim Dornan, who quit the campaign in November but keeps in touch with staffers. “She’s grasping for a pillar she thinks this campaign can be raised on.”

Her top campaign advisers, having failed to persuade Harris to drop her struggling campaign against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, are preparing to leave. Those include Ed Rollins, a highly regarded GOP strategist and her top campaign adviser; Adam Goodman, her longtime Tampa-based media consultant; and campaign manager Jamie Miller. Harris has been aggressively campaigning for support among religious conservatives, hitting large churches and headlining a “Reclaiming America for Christ” conference in Broward County last weekend. She told hundreds of attendees she was “doing God’s work” with her campaign.

Harris also hinted at her increased emphasis on her Christian faith when she talked to ABC’s Nightline last week about spending $10-million of her own money to jump-start her Senate campaign.

“I am willing to take this widow’s mite, this pearl of great price, and put everything on the line. No matter how much you have, are you willing to take what you have and sell it all for a great price,” Harris said in the transcript provided by ABC News.

The widow’s mite refers to a New Testament parable about a poor woman giving what little money she had to the temple.

Burroughs, a former staffer with Campus Crusade for Christ, said that in the last month Harris has been deeply moved by the Bill Bright book The Joy of Supernatural Thinking – Believing in God for the Impossible. The book explains that “it’s not you trying to do something but God working through you. … What we all see as impossible, God sees as possible,” Burroughs said. [St. Petersburg Times]

Paranoia and religious fanaticism. Oh, this is going to be fun to watch.

(HT to Talking Points Memo.)