Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 1999 /20 Kislev, 5760
Why AlGore will be our next president
AL GORE WILL BE THE WINNER of the
2000 presidential election.
Four forces drive that bold prediction:
-- A strong economy, which always benefits the party
holding the White House.
-- The demonstrated ability of Vice President Gore to
exploit core Democratic issues such as Social Security,
health and education.
-- The prominence of those same issues in voters' minds.
-- The perception that Gore is a serious public servant
and that his rival — in all likelihood Texas Gov. George
W. Bush — is not.
The power of the economy to predict elections is
manifest. Ever since the collection of solid national
economic data began in earnest, presidential elections
have followed a stark and unmistakable pattern: People
vote their pocketbooks. If the economy is growing,
voters reward the incumbent party.
If the economy is flat or declining, they reward the
challenger. By that historic standard, Democrat Gore
should carry the day.
The second factor driving the 2000 election is the Democratic party's track
record in exploiting such concerns as Social Security, health care and
Social Security is a perennial Democratic issue, especially the easily stirred fear
among retirees of substantial benefit cuts.
Recall the elderly woman who worried that "the government is going to take
away my TV." Assured that the government was actually talking about
eliminating the Tennessee Valley Association — the "T.V.A." — she was not
convinced. "I'm not taking any chances," she said.
President Clinton has raised the stakes in this Social Security debate by
proposing that the government provide free prescription drugs to those over
65. The fact that Congress hasn't given it to him means that he will have an
issue next year.
Vice President Gore has spent several weeks now chastising challenger Bill
Bradley for offering an overly expensive health-care plan.
The issue of education has also benefited from the Democratic intramurals.
Gore has forged strong ties with the teachers' unions by vigorously battling Bill
Bradley over the concept of private school vouchers.
Aided by partisan rhetoric, Social Security, health and education — they're
being called the "s-h-e" issues — have risen to the top of voter concerns
heading into 2000.
A fourth force driving Gore's potential a year from now is the man himself.
Despite the regular quips about his dullness and his own desperate, apparently
clinical attempts to make himself psychologically attractive to female voters,
Gore is a recognized disciple of public service. He has performed the tasks and
mastered the issues of high government service.
Unlike Gov. Bush, the vice president will not need to gather the knowledge
base demanded of a 21st century president more or less from scratch. Gore's
been toting this stuff around with him for seven years and in increasingly large
Political columnist Jack Germond, who has been covering elections for four
decades, argues that voters eventually reward such attributes.
"I have formed a theory that I still consider valid — that a politician with
gravitas (mental weight) will convince the electorate of that quality if given
enough exposure over time," he says.
Germond's contention that America will eventually spot the inner qualities in our
potential leaders rests on more than blind hope. I recall my own lack of
excitement following a pre-campaign lunch with Gray Davis. A year later,
California Democrats were celebrating the election of the dull Davis as the
state's new governor.
With a year of active campaigning between now and election day, we will have
much more time to test a candidate's familiarity with key questions of foreign
and domestic policy than the candidates themselves will have time to cram. We
will have a far better opportunity than we do now to judge the candidates on
their own merits absent the present controversy over this past year's conduct
by President Clinton.
That promises, against all current odds, the election of Vice President
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.
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