Jewish World Review Oct. 25, 2002/ 19 Mar-Cheshvan 5763

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Consumer Reports

My money's on ...


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Just as I've put $25 on the Angels to dispatch the Giants in the World Series, it's an entertaining diversion to handicap some of the more contentious elections across the country. For example, a smart gambler might defy the media coverage of California's gubernatorial race and lay down, with favorable odds, a bundle on Bill Simon to upset the corrupt incumbent Gray Davis. Why Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, lashed out at the gaffe-plagued Simon campaign is a mystery. Instead of declaring, "I don't think there's a single worst-run race in the country," he could've sucked it up and said, "It's an uphill battle, but we believe Mr. Simon will prevail in the end."

Gov. Davis, who's spent his first term almost exclusively raising money for reelection, is vastly unpopular and can't be expected to rally Democrats to the polls. During the second Series game on Sunday night, Fox commentators Joe Buck and Tim McCarver spotted Disney chief Michael Eisner in a luxury box-Disney owns the Angels, at least for now-and didn't even point out that his guest was the state's governor.

Likewise in Maryland, where Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and GOP opponent Rep. Bob Ehrlich are tied in the polls in that almost-monolithically Democratic state. If the sniper isn't caught by Election Day, Townsend's base of voters in Montgomery and Prince George's Counties might stay home, fearing a single shot in the head while waiting on line outside a school or library.

I'm betting on Ehrlich, and would've anyway, regardless of the at-large lunatic, mostly because of Townsend's race-baiting, scare-tactics campaign. An Oct. 17 Wall Street Journal editorial slammed RFK's eldest child: "The most shameless exploitation so far has come from [Townsend]. As her polling lead on [Ehrlich] has vanished, her allies have stepped up attack ads in the sniper area of Montgomery County, Maryland. In one TV spot, which features sounds of gunfire and footage from Columbine High School, an announcer says, 'Tell Bob Ehrlich to stop siding with gun-lobby extremists who threaten our neighbors.' Lt. Governor Townsend says she has no problem intensifying the ad campaign amid the recent shooting spree. There's nothing like mature, calm political leadership in a crisis."

It's a lock that the Democrats will score heavily in the gubernatorial races, since twice as many GOP seats are at stake, and it's hard to see anything other than a drubbing of Republicans in the Midwest, specifically Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, all of which is bad news for President Bush in 2004. Although, truth be told, it's not as if Tom Ridge, John Engler or Tommy Thompson delivered for Bush in states he should've won.

In other parts of the country, George Pataki, despite The New York Times' best efforts, cruises; in Massachusetts, unfortunately, barring a last-weekend national GOP surge, Mitt Romney loses. I do enjoy Bill Clinton's selfless appearances on the behalf of Democratic candidates. For example, in Dorchester, MA, last week, he told a crowd that a victory for Shannon O'Brien over Romney "would be a wonderful way to celebrate the 10th anniversary of my victory in 1992."

But once again, all the Democratic bile, fraud and ballot malfunctions will be focused on Florida, where incumbent Jeb Bush is fighting in the trenches against challenger Bill McBride. However, unless there's a massive turnout, unusual for a nonpresidential election, it seems McBride's momentum has stopped and Gov. Bush, helped by his brother's vigilant fundraising and pep rallies, will probably win by, say, 537 votes. And prevail in the automatic recount. I expect the polls this week, which recently have produced a virtual tie, to put McBride out in front by five or so points, but his campaign's elation will be fleeting.

According to the Oct. 19 Miami Herald, the reputedly down-home McBride has been fundraising with dangerous people: again, Bill Clinton. Lesley Clark writes from Greenwich, CT: "With a two-day whirlwind trip to collect cash for his increasingly tight race against Gov. Jeb Bush, Democrat Bill McBride reached political nirvana Friday: five minutes of private, one-on-one political hardball with former President Bill Clinton. After the dollars were collected, the political master took McBride aside, giving him pointers on winning close elections and tips on how to woo black voters... His pupil stood in rapt attention, nodding. 'He was my kind of president,' McBride said of Clinton. 'He's my kind of man, and I want him to help me as much as I can.'"

Jeb Bush wins.

Will that result further enrage the America Last brigade when the Democrats almost certainly fail to retake the House of Representatives for the fourth consecutive time? Among left-wing ideologues-both the earnest and kooky-Florida's the only election that matters, and they'll have Jeb's head on a spike at the many antiwar demonstrations that'll take place in upcoming months.

TIP SHEET ON THE SENATE BATTLE:

It's the Senate where the results actually have real, immediate consequences. Reasonable observers such as myself would like nothing better than to see the obstructionist Patrick Leahy stripped of his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee so that President Bush's nominees for vital court posts receive at least the courtesy of an up-or-down vote in the entire Senate.

I don't think it's in the cards: a number of seats will flip from the GOP to the Democrats, and vice versa, but in the end, my money says the party of backside-covering pols like Tom Daschle, John Kerry and John Edwards will retain its slim majority, even if it's the result of Rhode Island wormboy Lincoln Chafee pulling a Jim Jeffords and defecting from the party of his father.

Minnesota: Incumbent Paul Wellstone doesn't have the guts of Wisconsin colleague Russ Feingold (who'd make an excellent candidate against Bush in '04, as a legitimate populist who's ethically pristine, unlike Al Gore), and he's broken a term-limit pledge, but it's a quirky state and I think GOP challenger Norm Coleman will fall two points short.

New Jersey: Businessman Doug Forrester's had the best television advertisements of the entire campaign-a little kid's flunking a test and tells his teacher that Frank Lautenberg ought to complete it, just as he bailed out Bob Torricelli-and this is another election where an upset could occur. That depends on whether Democratic New Jersey is finally fed up with its tradition of crooked politicians and doesn't want to send the 78-year-old Lautenberg, who makes Robert Byrd look cogent, back to the Senate. Having spent a year in Princeton, growing tomatoes that are the best in the nation, and sick of turnpike jokes, I'm counting on the people to do the right thing and give Jersey's Supreme Court a black eye for allowing the Torch switcheroo.

Lautenberg's refusal to debate Forrester might be his undoing. An Oct. 17 Philadelphia Inquirer editorial said: "New Jersey Democrats are perfectly happy treating the bizarre as ordinary-when it suits their purposes. They've been touting former Sen. Frank Lautenberg for the U.S. Senate as if he'd always been on the Nov. 5 ballot. The candidate is traveling around the state, pumping hands at senior-citizen centers, marching in holiday parades, phoning for dollars. But when it comes to debating Republican Douglas Forrester, Democrats suddenly view this election as a special circumstance. They claim Mr. Lautenberg can't possibly be expected to step so suddenly on the debate stage in place of former candidate Robert Torricelli, who tearfully dropped out of the race just 17 days ago... Publicly, Mr. Lautenberg says, 'Sure, I'll debate anytime, anywhere,' but his campaign has only declined dates... The Lautenberg camp should stop stalling as it monitors opinion polls. This race has been sullied enough by questionable political tactics."

Colorado: Incumbent Wayne Allard has the charisma and campaign skills of a Microsoft technician; he loses to Democrat Tom Strickland. By a sizable margin.

North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole, who ought to have this contest in the bag, given her local roots and impressive resume, is going to blow it against Clinton buddy Erskine Bowles. I can smell it from here.

New Hampshire: Blowhard Sen. Bob Smith, the conservative who temporarily bolted from the GOP in 2000, and earlier this year lost a bitter primary race to Rep. John Sununu, will have his revenge on Election Day. Democratic Gov. Jean Shaheen, a decent if unformidable opponent, will reap the rewards of Smith's tacitly encouraging his hardcore supporters to sit out the election, giving the Dems another Senate pick-up. Sununu hasn't done himself any favors with his gloves-off race against Shaheen. He's a smart guy but apparently his father's brass skipped a generation.

South Dakota: Another grudge match, this time between Tom Daschle and President Bush. The Majority Leader's protege, Sen. Tim Johnson, is slowly going down the tubes, as voter fraud on Indian reservations is crowding the front pages of local newspapers, and Rep. John Thune, the White House-picked candidate, finally gets his campaign on track. Daschle's prestige is on the line here-the equivalent of Bush's personal stake in his brother's race in Florida-and if Johnson is defeated, the senior Senator can kiss his longshot presidential hopes goodbye.

Missouri: Jean Carnahan, who was appointed senator after her deceased husband defeated John Ashcroft two years ago in a fishy election, is imploding right now and doesn't look to right her campaign by Nov. 5. Not only is GOP challenger Jim Talent a better and more experienced politician, but Carnahan's recent dumb remark-"I'm the No. 1 target of the White House. Since they can't get Osama bin Laden, they're going to get me"-was the capper in a badly run race.

Texas: A sweep for the GOP, with Gov. Rick Perry besting multimillionaire Tony Sanchez and John Cornyn defeating Ron Kirk, the once-moderate Democrat and former mayor of Dallas who fell under the spell of Clintonite liberals and swung to the left in the past two months. I think Kirk's chances were always exaggerated-he was a Beltway media pet, a vehicle for embarrassing President Bush on his home turf-but the chances of a black winning statewide in Texas always seemed like a reach.

Arkansas: It's ironic that Sen. Tim Hutchinson is likely to lose because of a messy divorce in the state where Bill Clinton is now officially a Negro and perfected the art of Dogpatch politics, but opponent Mark Pryor, son of the popular former Sen. David Pryor, nails down the seat. It's testament to Pryor's quick instincts, citing "scheduling conflicts," that he didn't appear with Clinton when the speaker-for-hire recently visited the state on a campaign swing.

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JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and CEO of New York Press (www.nypress.com). Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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© 2002, Russ Smith