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Jewish World Review July 19, 2000 / 16 Tamuz, 5760

Chris Matthews

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Consumer Reports


Pre-convention calm?


http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- An eerie calm has settled on American politics. The apathy and indecision is measurable in the polls. Whatever is asked, the answer comes back: "Whatever."

Asked if we're headed in the "right" or "wrong" direction, the Wall Street Journal poll numbers come back 44 percent right, 38 percent wrong. Asked whether it's "time for a change" or whether we should "continue with Democrats" in control of the presidency, the results are 47 percent to 46 percent.

Whatever. Political waters once roiled by Kennedy, Goldwater, Nixon, McGovern, Carter, Reagan and Clinton now sit in a dead calm. Fewer than a majority think we're headed in the right direction as a country. Almost as many think not. Almost half the people want a change in the White House; almost half want to keep the Clinton-Gore crowd in power.

The same indecision clouds the race for Congress. Asked by the NBC/WSJ pollsters if they would rather see Republicans keep control of Congress or Democrats take it away from them, the answer was 43 percent Republican, 41 percent Democrat.

Even this small sign of changed national direction is offset by a Gallup Poll that has 48 percent of voters planning to vote for a Democratic candidate this fall, 46 percent for a Republican.

The presidential contest is equally lacking in what one candidate's dad once called "Big Mo" — momentum. George W. Bush has built a lead since the primaries — 49 percent to 41 percent in the NBC/WSJ poll; 50 percent to 41 percent in the Gallup.

But when NBC/WSJ pollsters asked expected voters to gauge the two candidates' abilities, people divvy up the quality traits with rough equality. Bush scores heavily on leadership and being the more likeable of the two, as well as on having higher personal standards, setting a higher moral tone and being trustworthy to make the right decisions. Al Gore wins on knowledge and experience, especially in foreign policy, and being more in touch with average people's problems at home.

There is a similar division of strengths on issues. In a CNN/Time poll, Bush holds the edge on defense, crime and taxes. Gore wins on environment, Medicare and health care generally.

Gore also holds a debating edge on another issue that could turn today's perfect calm into October's perfect storm: abortion rights. Fifty-seven percent of voters believe decisions on abortion "should be left to the woman and her doctor," according to the NBC/WSJ poll. Just 32 percent would limit abortions to cases of rape, incest and the need to save the life of the mother. Only 9 percent say abortion should be banned outright.

Gore knows these numbers better than anyone. Expect him to use them by Nov. 7.



JWR contributor Chris Matthews is the author of Hardball. and hosts a CNBC show of the same name. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

Up

07/17/00: AlGore is executing a double dose of imitation 07/10/00: Mexicans elect a Bush Republican
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05/01/00: Abortion polls don't reflect reality
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08/16/99: Bubba on Bubba
08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
08/04/99: Weicker: real third party is on the Left
08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

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