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Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 2002 / 12 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Dick Morris

Dick Morris
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Consumer Reports

Only sure bet of 2002 elections is voter angst | The polls indicate that the 2002 elections are not healthy for incumbents, frontrunners and other living things. When incumbents are under 50 percent in a two-way race, they are endangered species.

Yet an analysis of poll data, from John Zogby, the best pollster in the 2000 elections, and others suggests that nine of the 28 Senate incumbents are under 50 percent as the campaign enters the final three weeks. And that's after two Senator Bobs - Republican Smith of New Hampshire and Democrat Torricelli of New Jersey - lost the primary and vaporized, respectively.

Tim Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) are mired in the low to mid-forties, as are Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.), offsetting losses which would keep the Senate's balance of power intact. If Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) and Torricelli's stand-in, Frank Lautenberg, continue their large, but recent, leads over GOP challengers, the battle for Senate control could come down to the open seats in New Hampshire and North Carolina.

Democrat Jeanne Shaheen appears slightly ahead in New Hampshire, probably due to her higher recognition as governor, while in North Carolina, Democrat Erskine Bowles is gaining steadily on Republican Elizabeth Dole, who seems to be carrying over her presidential race swoon into the Senate contest.

Incumbents and front-runners are in serious trouble in the '02 Senate contests. Voter anger is palpable. Their rage appears to have no partisan motivation. There are no good guys, only bad ones. The mood reminds the older among us of the voter animus of the '70s when Vietnam and Watergate soured voter attitudes.

Corporate excesses and the resulting stock market depression appear to be taking their toll as incumbents are automatically, and reasonably, suspect in voters' eyes. The economy is, of course, playing a role, but a curiously nonpartisan one.

A Fox News poll this week shows that voters divide evenly, 41-41, when asked which party they trust to manage the economy. Iraq, of course, works in the GOP's favor and is largely responsible for the generic 42-40 Republican edge in the Fox News poll (a five-point move from the three-point Democratic advantage in mid- September.

But while Washington counts incumbents' problems and ponders its partisan implications, the voters appear impartial in their rage to throw the current officeholders out. No party has virtue in their minds. All are suspect. The system seems the real enemy of the voters. Tired of parsing blame and following negative ads back and forth, voters seem prepared to hold the establishment to blame regardless of partisan stripe.

The real winners are the likes of John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.), who criticize the system and demand change. It is their critique, not the self-serving charges of party leaders, that appears to be gaining traction with the voters. Ross Perot would clean up in this environment.

George W. Bush seems curiously exempt from this voter angst. Still at 70 percent approval, his preoccupation with Iraq and terror is exactly what the voters want. Should Bush campaign for his party this year? It's likely nobody can or will stop him. But Bush can only hurt himself by injecting his presidency into partisan contests while he is trying to sell the voters on the imminent threat from Iraq.

But even if Bush campaigns, voters are likely not to be affected. The Bush they see on the stump is not the 70 percent approval Bush in the polls. In his partisan garb, he is more like the man who lost the popular vote in 2000.

What will happen? More front-runners will fall. Incumbents who now appear safe will suffer yet more insecurity. The numbers will flip all over the place as voter anger shifts first one way and then the other. Pollsters will look like idiots as their data bounces all over the place.

This election is definitely a work in progress. Don't bet on the outcome. Bet on something sure, like the lottery.

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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.


10/16/02: Endangered incumbents
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