Tobacco: Outmaneuvering Lott

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WASHINGTON: Majority Leader Trent Lott likes to run the Senate his way -- and he usually succeeds. But despite being hailed as an aisle-crossing compromise, the sudden revival of the tobacco bill's prospects in the Senate is proof that Tom Daschle and the Democrats are occasionally able to beat Lott at his own game.

The Democrats are using an old gambit that couldn't save John McCain's last effort -- campaign finance reform -- but may well work this time around: threatening to attach the tobacco bill as an amendment to every piece of legislation that Lott touches. "The Republicans are under some pressure to keep the bill alive because they're in charge," says TIME congressional correspondent John Dickerson. "They don't want to be a do-nothing Congress, and they don't want to get tagged with a pro-tobacco label." So they budged, and both Daschle and the White House seem to be awfully happy with the results.

"The evidence that the Democrats are winning is that the bill is still alive," says Dickerson. It still has a nasty cough. But Democrats struggling to bring the bill to a vote now have a little momentum -- and Trent Lott's busy schedule -- on their side.