Clicking on banner ads keeps JWR alive
Jewish World Review March 30, 2001 / 6 Nissan, 5761

John H. Fund

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Can the GOP capture the nation's most closely balanced district? -- TWO days after he left the hospital where he had cancer surgery, Rep. Norm Sisisky of Virginia died yesterday. The 73-year-old Democrat had made a fortune as a soft-drink bottler and then built a successful career as a 20-year congressman in a rural Southside Virginia district. The special election to fill his seat, which will likely be held this summer, will be surrounded with real political tension, since his district is perhaps the most closely balanced between the parties of any in the country. The outcome will be an early indication of how the soft economy is affecting Republicans and whether Democratic charges that the Bush administration is too conservative carry any weight.

Sisisky's district, which stretches from the Navy town of Portsmouth through tobacco and peanut country to the plantations surrounding Richmond, is not typical of America--it's 39% black and relatively rural--but you can't imagine a more marginal district. Last year George W. Bush won the district by only 473 votes out of 237,000 cast--50.1% of the two-party vote. Sen. Chuck Robb, the Democratic incumbent, carried the district with 51% of the vote while losing statewide.

Previous election have been just as close. In 1996 Bob Dole prevailed by 1,682 votes over Bill Clinton. Four years earlier, Mr. Clinton won the district by only 745 votes. No other district in the country has seen three straight presidential elections in which the winner carried the district by less than one percentage point.

Since party nominees for Virginia special elections are normally chosen by party committees rather than in primaries, a special election could be held as early as June, right in the middle of the debates in Congress over President Bush's tax and budget priorities. Should the GOP capture a seat that has elected only one Republican in its history, the party will gain valuable political momentum. If Democrats hold the seat in a state where Republicans hold every statewide elected office, they can crow that George W. Bush's popularity is ebbing and they are on track to retaking the House next year.

The special election will also set up a fascinating contest between two political powerhouses. Gov. Gilmore became the chairman of the Republican National Committee largely on the strength of his successful effort to win both houses of the Virginia Legislature for Republicans in 1999. He did so by raising money and recruiting candidates for precisely the kind of rural, once solidly Democratic districts that Sisisky represented. He will come under pressure to replicate that feat.

At the same time, Democrats have a clear base of support in the district's 39% black population, one of the highest African-American proportions in any district where Republicans have a shot. The NAACP and labor unions proved impressively organized in getting out voters for Democrats in last November's election, but they will now be asked to deliver high turnout levels in a special election held during the vacation season.

Polls are constantly taken to measure a president's popularity and effectiveness, but what decides elections is which voters are most motivated to go to the polls. For serious political observers, the special election this summer in Southside Virginia will be a more important barometer of how George W. Bush is doing than any poll. It should prove to an exciting--and expensive -- contest.

Comment on JWR contributor John H. Fund's column by clicking here.


03/09/01: Terminated
03/06/01: Leave well enough alone
02/22/01: Forgetting our heroes
02/15/01: In 1978 Clinton got a close look at the dangers of selling forgiveness
02/12/01: Clinton owes the country an explanation --- and an appology
02/06/01: How Ronald Reagan changed America
01/16/01: Why block Ashcroft? To demoralize the GOP's most loyal voters
01/15/01: Remembering John Schmitz, a cheerful extremist
12/29/00: Why are all Dems libs pickin' on me?
Dubya's 48% mandate is different than Ford's
12/13/00: Gore would have lost any recount that passed constitutional muster
11/13/00: The People Have Spoken: Will Gore listen?
10/25/00: She's really a Dodger
09/28/00: Locking up domestic oil?
09/25/00: Hillary gives new meaning to a "woman with a past"
09/21/00: Ignore the Polls. The Campaign Isn't Over Yet

©2001, John H. Fund