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Jewish World Review Nov. 29, 1999 /20 Kislev, 5760

Chris Matthews

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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 education.

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 bundles.

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 Gore.

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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11/10/99: Backroom Bill
11/08/99: Please don't feed the 'pander bears'
11/03/99: Battle of the Bubba clones
11/01/99: Pat Buchanan, kamikaze candidate
10/27/99: The year of the woman... voter
10/25/99: The Curse of the Bubba
10/21/99: GOP gives Clinton his finest hour
10/18/99: Clinton's last hurrah
10/13/99: Rough seas for Capt. Ventura
10/11/99: Gore targets Bradley's strength
10/06/99: Bradley's got the right Rx
10/04/99: Buchanan, Churchill and Hitler
09/30/99: Who'll spin political gold in Golden State Gore or Bradley?
09/27/99: Here's a millennial checklist for candidates
09/22/99: The biography battle
09/20/99: Buchanan's new book is a must-read
09/15/99: Don't rule out Beatty
09/13/99: The man with the sun on his face
09/08/99: W. vs. Jr. on dope and the draft
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08/11/99: Hillary's agonizing attempts to understand
08/09/99: With warm regards, Richard Nixon
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08/02/99: Dubyah's last hangover
07/27/99: Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh; capitalism is gonna win

©1999, NEA