From year to year, wild predictions cast each upcoming election with grim warnings of an extremely right-wing House of Representatives, a Senate swimming in liberal swill, a president whose ideology threatens both. And the next election year just the opposite: a Senate verged on being so far to the political right that they have completed a 180 degree turn to the left. The House of Representatives? Well, yes, you guessed it.
What is it about American voter sentiment that disallows the predictions of extremism from ever taking office? Remember the first Bush war on terror? In the end, Poppa Bush’s approval rating was over 90-percent. That election season, Democrats were desperate to pin the tail on their donkey. Their candidate, from out of nowhere, was the master of dexterous campaigning, Bill Clinton. He won, and he could have done it blindfolded.
A year before, the pundits would have never believed it. Two years later, the republican revolution turned out to be more of a PR campaign than a true policy revolution. Two more years later, Bill Clinton won in a landslide that was viewed as a referendum against the Republican Party. Then a massive sex scandal that almost buried a presidency and excited Republicans at the prospect of a mid-term election landslide. Yet, again, American voters in their balancing act of sentiment kept the power just the way it was.
With the economy in overdrive Election 2000 was the Democrats to lose. They did; Bush II, and a Senate deadlocked at 50-50 with the vice-president as tie-breaker.
Jim Jeffords, in a quintessential counterbalance, defected from the Republican Party and declared himself independent. He, like American voters, could not stand the scales to tip too much in one direction.
Is America a libra? Do the scales of justice permeate the October air? True, the election is in the month of November, but most voters make their final election decisions in the waning days of October. Now, with vote-by-mail, ballots reach households at the height of the libra index, leading to what can only be considered an infinite astrological joke on the power-hungry and the extremists who may have had their reign otherwise.
This election is being touted as, among other things, a referendum on the president’s war cry. Democrats hope Americans are not forgetting their declining 401Ks. With the fiscal year stock earnings being released, they are unlikely to easily do so. Because each vote in each race in each state becomes a part of a much larger political picture, the Vanguard has decided to decode some of the most contested elections throughout the nation. It is na퀌�ve to think that Oregon’s races stand alone in their significance, as naive as it would be to believe that voting didn’t matter.
Election 2002: War, economy and power hang in the balance
Bad Bob drops torch
Bob “The Torch” Toricelli (D) embroiled in an ethical lapse drops out of the U.S. Senate race. Democrats replace him with Frank Lautenberg (D) who quickly takes the lead over Doug Forrester (R), but not a before lawsuit by Republicans that makes it to the New Jersey Supreme Court. Republicans charge that it opens the door to more election fiascos. Not a week goes by and they are right.*
Hairdresser on fire?
Mike Taylor (R), hairdresser and businessman, is shown lovingly caressing a male client’s face with one of his beauty products. Unfortunately, he is also wearing a flared-collar polyester suit. Montanans say “what?” Angry, Taylor drops out of the race against Sen. Max Baucus (D), saying Democrats portrayed him as gay to destroy his campaign. Democrats play coy, leading gay activists and pols from both parties to allege dirty tricks. Just don’t tell Barney Frank (D-Mass) that being gay ruins your electability. Then again, Frank would never be caught gay in polyester.
Is Chafee pulling a Jeffords?
No election scheduled for the Senate, but Sen. Chaffee (R) hints that if Republicans take control of the Senate he may switch parties. Importantly, Chaffee is one of only two republicans to vote against the authorization of military force in Iraq.
Be afraid, very afraid
If Mary Landrieu (D) does not win 50 percent of the vote on Nov 5, she will be forced into a run-off election with the nearest competitor. The Republican Party has stacked the field of competitors with not one, but three Republican candidates. They hope to tilt the chance of a run-off in their favor. This could lead to a United States Senate in limbo until December. Can you say lawsuit?
Hillary in 2008
The New York governor’s race can be seen as a template for democratic fund-raiser extraordinaire Hillary Clinton. As Maureen Dowd noted last week in the New York Times, Sen. Clinton hopes for a solid foundation in New York to launch her bid for president. This foundation, though, unfortunately rests on getting Carl McCall in to the governor’s office. His chances are slim, though, against Gov. Pataki.
Republican’s California dreamin’
There is no bigger prize than the golden (liberal) hills of California. The Republicans have wanted it since Bush lost it in 1992. The largest electoral prize is often dictated by the political bully pulpit of the governor’s office. In 2004, Republicans hope this will be Bill Simon. But his business scandals, akin to Pirates of the Caribbean, seem to have sunk his chances against incumbent Gov. Gray Davis (D).
Lights, camera, tape recorder
A disgruntled supporter of Greg Ganske (R) passes a tape of a strategy session to Sen. Tom Harkin’s (D) camp. Pundits thought this would be the end of the beltway road for Harkin. However, he still leads by a slim margin. More damning may be the transcript of Greg Ganske saying to his supporters, “We’re going to attack him like no one has ever seen before.” Republicans are surprised that voters don’t mind secret tapings, but they are more offended by a candidate whipping his supporters into something analogous to a bloody cornfield deer hunt. Duh.
Left, right, left, right
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland’s lefty ways and means are increasingly at odds with a conservative Georgia electorate. Saxby Chambliss (R) hopes to unseat him in this critical Senate race.
Olympic czar versus WOMAN
Mitt Romney (R), former Utahan and Olympic organizer, moves to Massachusetts to become governor. Daddy Bush, Former Prez Clinton and every major power player are stumping for either Shannon O’Brien (D) or Romney. Besides his notorious chin and blue eyes, he promises to fill his administration with 50 percent women. Shannon O’Brien says: “I am a woman.”
His and Hers
Jean Carnahan (D) replaced her deceased husband who still won his election in 2000 against John Ashcroft (talk about reaching from the grave). Now she is seeking to maintain her/his Senate seat by fending off a strong challenge by Jim Talent (R).
Bush kicked out of Texas
Will George W. Bush’s party lose the governorship of his home state? Will his lonesome prairie be turned over to those crazy, immoral democrats? Gov. Rick Perry (R) is facing a vibrant campaign from Democrat Tony Sanchez.
Will Bill still fill until 2006?
Bill Richardson (D) faced a lot of unfriendly fire (and friendly fire from my friends) when he called for the legalization of marijuana. Now, in an all-Hispanic race, he faces a possible defeat by John Sanchez (R).
Shaheen vs. Sunnunu
This is possibly the most contested race in the nation. Sunnunu (R) unseated Senate incumbent Bob Smith in an injurious primary to confront Shaheen. In her primary, she stayed close to her loyal democratic constituency and may just beat Sunnunu by the slightest of margins.
Jeb, are you really an ass?
Jeb was sailing toward re-election. With little campaigning, a massive war chest and incumbency all on his side, he had almost extinguished the stench of Election 2000. After Janet Reno (D) lost the primary amid more election fiascos in South Florida, she climbed right back on her little red truck and joined with Bill McBride (B) for the election of his life. With Democrats hungry for a win to avenge the haunt of Florida past, they may have found their Florida key – in Jeb’s own mouth. Last week, he was recorded by a journalist in an open meeting with Pensacola businessmen denouncing, among other things, the voter’s will. He declared he had his own “devious plans” to go against a voter referendum.
He then delighted in the spreading of a rumor about a missing girl’s incarcerated foster parents, who were allegedly lesbians. He ribbed that there were “juicy details” and teased the businessmen about not having to deal with “that” in Pensacola. Apparently, there are no lesbians in the panhandle. Editorial boards and activist groups jumped at the chance to criticize Jeb, scathing him with taunts about locker room homophobia and delighting that he had shown his true blue-blood country club mentality. McBride has a shot at unseating Bush, and that does not bode well for the other Bush’s chances in Florida in 2004.