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Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2002 / 10 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Endangered incumbents | "Off with their heads" seems to be the mood of the voters as the candidates enter the final lap of the 2002 races that will determine control of the Senate. Incumbents who shouldn't be in trouble are fighting for their lives, and challengers who should be nowhere are close on their heels.

Of the 33 senators whose terms expire this year, three have quit, one lost a primary and Bob Torricelli has vaporized. Of the remaining 28, nine - one-third - are stuck in tough races for re-election.

When an incumbent seeks re-election, the key question is whether his vote polls over or under 50 percent. If more than half the voters are backing his opponent or are undecided, he's in trouble. It's like asking someone if they will be married to the same person next year: An answer of "undecided" isn't exactly encouraging.

With that in mind, here's how the Senate races stack up. (I cite polls conducted in the past few days, mostly by John Zogby, the best in the business and one of the only pollsters who got the 2000 presidential election right.)

Likely Democratic Gains

Arkansas: Latest polls have GOP Sen. Tim Hutchinson tied at 45-45 with challenger Mark Pryor, son of former Sen. David Pryor. As an incumbent, that means Hutchinson is in a deep hole.

Colorado: Democratic challenger Tom Strickland, who almost won last time, has a 41-40 lead over GOP incumbent Wayne Allard. At 10 points under 50, don't sell Allard a life-insurance policy.

Likely GOP Gains

Missouri: GOP Rep. Jim Talent has been steadily gaining on Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan, who took the seat her husband won posthumously in 2000. Behind by eight in mid-September, Talent now leads 47-41. No way Jean Carnahan should be in the Senate.

South Dakota: In a real kick in the teeth to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, his South Dakota Democratic colleague Sen. Tim Johnson is trailing Republican John Thune by 45-43. Daschle's high liberal profile may be weakening his party in this conservative state.

Who Knows?

New Hampshire: Republicans breathed a sign of relief when Rep. John Sununu defeated incumbent Sen. Bob Smith in the primary. But now Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen has opened up a two-point lead.

North Carolina: Nobody thought Erskine Bowles, Bill Clinton's former chief of staff, had much of a shot against Elizabeth Dole. But Mrs. Dole seems to have studied her husband's monograph, "How to Lose an Election": Her lead has dropped to just six points, 47-41.

Still in Play

The party now in power seems likely to hold these seats, but none is a done deal.

Minnesota: It looked as if Democratic liberal incumbent Paul Wellstone was licked when Democrat-turned-Republican Norm Coleman opened a six-point lead in mid-September. But Wellstone has come back to lead 46-37. He's under 50 percent, but he seems to have Coleman on the ropes.

New Jersey: Former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the beneficiary of Gov. McGreevey's disappearing-rabbit act, has taken the lead, 48-36, over Douglas Forrester. But Lautenberg's still not over 50 percent.

Texas: Republican John Cornyn leads Democrat Ron Kirk by 45-37 in his battle to hold Phil Gramm's seat for the GOP. He's lost one-third of his lead since September.

Outcome: If today were Election Day, the Democrats would pick up Arkansas and Colorado while the Republicans took Missouri and South Dakota. Then it would come down to New Hampshire and North Carolina. Anybody's guess from there.

Special Twist: If Carnahan loses in Missouri, the Republicans will have a Senate majority until Jan. 1. Since she's an appointed replacement for her husband, Talent would take the seat immediately while other new senators have to wait for Jan. 1 to start their terms. The Republicans could confirm all of Bush's judges in eight busy weeks.

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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, "Power Plays: Top 20 Winning and Losing Strategies of History's Great Political Leaders" Comment by clicking here.


10/11/02: Why multilateralism doesn't work
10/09/02: Hey, Dems: Believe NYTimes polling at your own risk
10/03/02: Dem suicide: Let's count the ways
09/30/02: The Dems just can't stop themselves
09/26/02: The perils of polling
09/19/02: W. boxed in the U.N.
09/19/02: Welfare reform: Keep on keeping on
09/12/02: Are Dems insane on Iraq?
09/09/02: Twin shadows of Election '02
09/05/02: GOP should triangulate
08/28/02: Trust the military
08/22/02: It's not the economy, stupid
08/09/02: As America unites, Gore goes divisive
08/01/02: Bush must focus on big picture
07/23/02: Election 2002: Advantage Dems
07/19/02: Rudy for SEC tough cop
07/17/02: The investor strike
07/15/02: Door open for drug testing students --- go for it, GOP!
07/12/02: Dubya looking out for No. 1?
07/03/02: The DNA war for Bush's soul
06/21/02: Why are conservatives winning?
06/19/02: Learning to love the feds
06/14/02: Hey, journalists and Dems: Dubya is doing just fine
06/12/02: It's terrorism, stupid!
06/10/02: Sanctions are a potent weapon
06/04/02: Al Qaeda's more dangerous new front
05/31/02: Why '04 looks tough for liberal Dems
05/24/02: Democratic self-destruction
05/22/02: The Clinton failures
05/15/02: Pataki positioned to win
05/08/02: A wakeup-call for American Jewry
05/03/02: Give Bush back his focus
05/01/02: Immigration fault li(n)es
04/25/02: It's the war, stupid
04/17/02: Bush goes small bore
04/12/02: Bush must be a gentle partisan
04/10/02: In defense of polling
04/08/02: Focus on Iraq, not the Palestinians
04/01/02: Only Internet will bring real campaign finance reform
03/27/02: Where W's drawn a line in the sand
03/22/02: Enron scandal will not trigger a wave of economic populism
03/20/02: Term-limited --- by war
03/15/02: Europe doesn't have a clue
03/11/02: Bush popularity = GOP win?
03/01/02: Will America be forced to chase its tail in its war on terrorism?
02/27/02: The Arafat/Saddam equilibrium must be destroyed
02/21/02: Campaign finance reform won't hurt GOPers
02/13/02: Dodd scurries for cover
02/11/02: U.S. 'unilateralism'? The Europeans don't have a case
02/06/02: WAR: What women want
02/01/02: They all talk in the end
01/30/01: The odd couple: Chris Dodd and Arthur Andersen
01/22/01: His father's son? Bush better get an 'Act II' fast!
01/18/01: Dubya & the 'vision thing'
01/14/01: The Rumsfeld Doctrine 01/03/01: A President Gore would have been a disaster
01/03/02: Clinton's priority: Political correctness over fighting terror
12/27/01: Terror network grew out of Clinton's inaction, despite warnings
12/24/01: Call 'em back, George
12/18/01: What Bush did right
12/13/01: Libs worry too much
12/11/01: "Open Sesame": Feinstein's proposed bill allows 100,000 non-immigrant students from anti-American countries to our shores
12/07/01: The non-partisan president
12/05/01: Both parties are phony on stimulus debate
11/29/01: When terrorists can enter legally, it's time to change the laws
11/21/01: Go for the jugular!
11/16/01: You are all incumbents
11/14/01: Clinton's failure to mobilize America to confront foreign terror after the 1993 attack led directly to 9-11 disaster
11/12/01: To the generals: Don't worry about losing support
11/08/01: The death of the white liberal
11/07/01: Our leaders are being transformed in a way unprecedented in post-World War II history

© 2001, Dick Morris