Dire Lott for McCain-Feingold

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WASHINGTON: At Tuesday morning's mini-rally for campaign finance reform which also served as a diversion from Coffeegate President Clinton wheeled out some petitions and a warning to Republicans: voting against McCain-Feingold will be "difficult to explain to the American people."

Well, now they're listening. Campaign finance reform has gone into a Trent Lott-induced cloture coma after two procedural votes today in which a simple majority was not enough. Democrats needed sixty to override Mitch McConnell's promised filibuster and go to an actual vote; Lott's crew needed sixty to attach the union-unfriendly "poison pill" amendment. Neither happened. The result? Both measures are in legislative purgatory, right where Lott wanted them.

"Lott navigated the Senate rules perfectly," says AllPolitics correspondent Tom Moore. "Nobody had to actually vote on record against McCain-Feingold, and the public is left with the impression that the Democrats were the ones who soured the deal by insisting on their Labor contributions."

Champions of the soft-money ban vow to fight on. John McCain thinks he can pick up a moderate Republican or two. Tom Daschle is threatening to hamstring the entire Senate by attaching the measure to everything he sees. But Trent Lott says it's dead, and so it is at least for this year. It's good to be the Majority Leader.