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`HORSE-TRADING’ NETS CONVENTION CREDENTIALS

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Todd Taylor, executive director of the Utah Democratic Party, would probably do well as a horse-trader.

For that is what he's been doing the past three days, trading all kinds of things to get guest credentials for the guests and spouses of Utah's 35-member delegation to the Democratic National Convention.In New York City's Madison Square Garden four years ago, Taylor had 14 guest passes. In Chicago's United Center, he is allotted only two guest passes by the party.

He thinks he'll make it - get everybody into the United Center each night - but maybe only because of a birthday.

Thursday, the final night of the convention when President Clinton gives his acceptance speech, is also Annette Cumming's 50th birthday. Cumming served on the national party's platform committee and, while not a delegate, has attended delegation functions as a guest in Chicago.

Cumming is also the wife of Utah financier Ian Cumming and will fly back to Utah on a company jet. She is flying back early to attend a special birthday party and is taking up to a third of the delegation with her.

(Considering that it can take up to an hour and a half just to get from downtown Chicago to the airport, a flight back on a private jet looks very good to some delegates).

Taylor is horse-trading some of those delegates' Thursday passes to pick up what he needs to fill guest passes for Wednesday night's convention. "I'm two short, but I think we'll get those," Taylor said.

Meanwhile Wednesday, Cumming, who is annually one of the biggest political donors in Utah, had birthday greetings delivered to her from President Clinton via his former campaign manager, James Carville, who spoke to the delegation.

The delegation also bought her a huge cake with 50 candles, which she tried in vain to blow out because of trick candles that wouldn't extinguish.

"Hurry up before it sets off the sprinklers," one delegate yelled.

- Democratic comeback: Utah delegates were told by a national political analyst that Democrats have a good shot at winning back Congress - and told what signs to watch to predict whether President Clinton will be re-elected easily.

Charles Cook, who publishes a newsletter and whose views appear in numerous media, told them at a delegation meeting Tuesday, "There's a 30 to 40 percent chance of (Democrats) taking back the House.

"Considering what happened two years ago (when Republicans won it for the first time in 40 years), that is fairly good."

He said the Senate races are volatile and hard to predict, but, "Democrats could easily pick up three seats and win back control . . . or they could lose three seats and go from the 47 they have now to 44. The Senate could go either direction in a big way."

Cook also suggested how to figure out early whether President Clinton will win re-election. He said an early indicator will be what an average of national polls show in a week or so (after post-convention bumps have evened out).

"If Clinton is 14 points or more ahead, it would take some rather serious external event to affect things" and Clinton should easily be re-elected, he said.

"But if the president is only ahead by single digits, hold on to your hat. It will be close."

Cook also said he doesn't think troubles by Rep. Enid Greene, R-Utah, and her decision not to run will have much effect on whether Republicans hold her seat. He did say it has discouraged the party, and that indirectly may create a more level playing field for Democrats trying to win it.

- "Cook"ing love, politics: To show how influential Cook is in Washington, Rep. Bill Orton, D-Utah, told Utah delegates that his wife decided to first date him only after she checked out what Cook had said about him in past issues of his newsletter.

"The bottom line was, he said that I am a winner, but he couldn't figure out why," Orton said.

Jacquelyn Orton said, "I just was checking to see whether we might be able to good dinner conversation or not. I decided we could."

Cook said, "You write things without trying to think too much about the consequences. But I'm glad this one worked out."

- Utah's unique polls: Cook, with a little prompting from Democratic delegates, blasted Utah media that contract for surveys with polling firms that also do work for political candidates.

Although not mentioned by name, the most prominent among them are polls for the Deseret News and KSL by Dan Jones & Associates, which also does extensive polling for Republican candidates.

"Utah is the only place in the nation where that happens," Cook said, adding that news media elsewhere want to avoid the perception that their polls may be swayed by a partisan pollster.

So, Cook said that in everywhere but Utah, the news media either conduct their own polls, use non-partisan academics or hire out-of-state political pollsters who do no political work in the local area.

"Every state thinks they are unique. Only four or five really are, and Utah is one of them," Cook said. Some Democrats said they worry such polls are biased, and they hurt their candidates' ability to raise funds by showing them farther behind than they are.

Jones, however, said in an interview that his firm also does some polling for Democrats, including Utah Attorney General Jan Graham. He also said, "This comes up every election year. They (the media) must like us and think our numbers are accurate because they keep hiring us."

He said, however, he will re-evaluate whether to continue both news and political polling after this election year.

Other Utah media also use pollsters that do political work, he noted. Pollster and lobbyist David Spatafore does polling for KTVX-Ch. 4 and Democratic candidates. Pollster R.T. Nielson also has done polling for the Provo Herald and Merrill Cook.

- Knifing through security: When trying to go through extremely tight security at the Democratic National Convention, where every camera, cell phone and bag is thoroughly checked and creates enormously long lines, a helpful hint is to leave your pocket knife (a potential weapon) home.

Salt Lake County commissioner and delegate Randy Horiuchi forgot that he had a pocket knife on him Monday.

When the policeman at his gate found it, Horiuchi joked, "It was like, `OK Japanese man, hand me the knife.' And then he threw it in a barrel. It was a $20 knife. But I'll never see it again. He wasn't even nice about it."