So Many Predictions
By Ken Rudin
Below are my final predictions before Tuesday's races. But first, it's your turn to prognosticate for prizes. Send your guesses for the winners in the following races:
Also send your guess for the party breakdown in the House and the Senate in the 106th Congress. I will publish the winner's name next week plus I'll send him or her some old campaign buttons (your choice of party). Deadline is 11 p.m. EST on Monday, November 2.
Question: Who wins the Senate race in Kentucky? How about the two open House seats? Any chance of an upset in Rep. Anne Northup's (R) race? Kay Kinney, Alexandria, Va.
Answer: While the race to succeed Sen. Wendell Ford (D) has always been close, many observers have picked Rep. Jim Bunning (R) to defeat Rep. Scotty Baesler (D). But a recent heavy media campaign by Baesler caught the GOP off guard, and most polls now show the race at a dead heat, with momentum clearly favoring the Democrat. In addition, Democrats still hold a 2-to-1 registration edge in Kentucky.
Kentucky's other senator, Republican Mitch McConnell, heads up the GOP Senatorial campaign committee. McConnell wants to win this race very badly and no doubt will do whatever he can to help Bunning. I'm sticking with Bunning on this one. But I'm mindful of all the times I thought the state was moving toward the GOP and was fooled. In the 1995 governor's race, the wags picked Larry Forgy (R) over Paul Patton (D), only to watch Patton win.
As for the two House seats left open by the Senate contenders, I see each one falling to the other party: Bunning's 4th Congressional District going to the Democrats (which hasn't happened since 1964), and Baesler's 6th falling to the GOP.
In the 3rd District, freshman Rep. Anne Northup (R) should be in good shape against Democratic opponent Chris Gorman, who is focusing on Northup's vote for the Clinton impeachment inquiry.
Question: What about the Russ Feingold (D)-Mark Neumann (R) match-up in Wisconsin and Senator Feingold's pledge to limit how much he spends? Michelle Brandt, San Francisco, Calif.
Answer: The co-author of the ill-fated McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill is risking his Senate seat to take a stand against a system he says has gotten out of hand. Neumann has made no such pledge to limit his campaign spending, and the GOP campaign committee is hammering Feingold on the airwaves. The right-to-life movement is strong in this heavily Catholic state, and Neumann has focused on Feingold's opposition to a ban of partial-birth abortion. Internal polls on both sides indicate that Neumann may have moved into the lead, but I still think Feingold is going to hold on and win this thing.
Question: Who do you see winning in the tight Maryland gubernatorial race between incumbent Parris Glendening (D) and Ellen Sauerbrey (R)? Chris Adamopoulos, Bethesda, Md.
Answer: The state's economy is good, and Maryland's political leanings have always been of the liberal Democrat stripe two things that should benefit Glendening. Also, the GOP hasn't elected a governor here since Spiro Agnew in 1966 and hasn't even won a majority in the governor's race since 1954. Plus, Sauerbrey has compiled a very conservative record on civil rights and abortion in the state legislature before running (and narrowly losing) to Glendening in 1994.
But the plodding and often dull Glendening is clearly in trouble, mostly because of his relationship with his fellow Democrats. He alienated a good portion of the party when he flip-flopped on appearing with Clinton in Maryland after the fallout following the president's grand jury testimony. Glendening has also had a rocky relationship with the state's leading African-American pols. He overwhelmingly took the black vote in '94 and only managed to squeak by Sauerbrey by 5,993 votes. Any weakness he shows in the black community this time could be fatal. Plus, he is running a steady stream of almost hysterical anti-Sauerbrey ads, which one expects to see from a challenger, not an incumbent.
The polls show it even, with perhaps some movement to wards Glendening. I say Sauerbrey wins.
Question: Why do you predict a victory by Sen. Al D'Amato (R-N.Y.) (see the Oct. 20 column)? Rep. Charles Schumer seems to be ahead in the polls, and New Yorkers heavily backed Clinton in the last election. Robert Canton, Los Angeles, Calif.
Answer: This one is going down to the wire, and some tracking polls show Schumer moving into the lead. I bet against D'Amato in 1992, when Clinton carried the state by a greater plurality than anywhere else. I also bet against him in 1980, when I thought he would split the Republican vote with the man he ousted in the GOP primary, Sen. Jacob Javits. The streets are filled with the bodies of people who have bet against D'Amato.
Still, there's no question he has never faced anyone like Schumer, who like D'Amato has shown he will do (and spend) anything it takes to win. The amount of negative ads from both camps, which have bombarded the airwaves since the general election began, is mind-boggling. The Republican has tried to paint Schumer as hostile to upstate voters, which could make the difference. Sadly, the race is more about D'Amato's use of the Yiddish word "putzhead" and Schumer's attendance record than about real issues, and the rancor could keep turnout down. Suppressing turnout may ultimately be behind D'Amato's game plan. The White House knows it, and the Clintons have repeatedly gone to New York to fire up the party faithful.
Never has D'Amato looked so vulnerable. But I've said that before. Prediction: D'Amato.
Question: How can you say Matt Fong (R) will defeat Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) (see the Oct. 2O column)? According to the latest L.A. Times poll among likely voters, Boxer is ahead by five points. Kurt Schimmel, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Answer: All along, this race had been a referendum on Barbara Boxer her abrasive personality, her liberal voting record. Fong, the state Treasurer, had effectively been making the case that Boxer was a hypocrite for going after Bob Packwood and Clarence Thomas while giving Clinton a free ride.
But Boxer has spent the past two weeks running effective negative TV ads, attacking Fong as an anti-abortion extremist. While Fong is far more moderate than Boxer's conservative 1992 opponent, Bruce Herschensohn, Fong's case for moderation blew up this week with the revelation that he gave $50,000 to the right-wing, anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition. The focus is no longer on Boxer but on Fong, giving the edge to the Democrat.
So I'm changing my mind. Boxer wins. And so does Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gray Davis. The New York Senate race has been getting all the attention, but the big news will be the Democrats' sweep in California.
Question: How close are the Senate and gubernatorial contests in Illinois? What about the race between Rep. John Shimkus (R) and Rick Verticchio (D)? Rebecca Bohlen, Carlinville, Ill.
Answer: Republicans win all three.
Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun (D) has made some nominal gains in the past few days, but nowhere near what she needs to win a second term. Millionaire state Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R), written off in the spring as too conservative to win, will be the state's first Republican senator elected since 1978.
In the battle to succeed retiring Gov. Jim Edgar (R), a recent Chicago Sun-Times poll had Democratic candidate Glenn Poshard within two points. But no other survey had it that close, and the GOP candidate, Secretary of State George Ryan, actually may be pulling away. Democrats have not won the office since 1972.
In the 20th Congressional District, Shimkus looks safe in his bid for a second term, even though he won the seat by only a thousand votes two years ago.
Question: As a former North Carolina student, I am very interested in that state's Senate race. Who wins, Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R) or John Edwards (D)? Will Ashworth, Alexandria, Va.
Answer: You would think that given the unpopularity of Clinton in the state, and the fact that the GOP is seen as the guardian of the tobacco industry, Faircloth should take this. But he's not going to.
Faircloth has tried to portray Edwards, a millionaire trial attorney, as a "Clinton liberal," out of touch with North Carolina farmers. But he refuses to debate Edwards, who is much younger, more energetic and certainly more photogenic than the bumbling Faircloth. No incumbent holding this seat has won re-election since 1968, and my guess is the trend will continue. Edwards will defeat Faircloth.
Question: Do you think Jesse "The Body" Ventura, the wrestler from Minnesota who is running for governor, has a chance? Also, what percent does Fred Tuttle (R) get for Vermont Senate, even though his race is just a publicity stunt? Micah J. Bergdale, Dewey, Ariz.
Answer: Minnesota Reform Party candidate Ventura, who is pulling nearly a quarter of the vote in the latest polls, is clearly the most interesting thing to write about in the race between Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey III and Republican Norm Coleman. Ventura is very colorful, but he's not going to win, and may not have the firmest grasp on the issues. The question is who will he hurt more: Humphrey, the state attorney general, or Coleman, the Democrat-turned-GOP mayor of St. Paul.
As for Vermont's Tuttle, who entered the public eye as a fictitious candidate in a 1996 movie, his bid is not serious. He is 79 years old, and concedes that not only will his wife not vote for him, but that he himself will vote for Sen. Pat Leahy (D). Tuttle is getting about 25 percent in the few polls that exist. It will be interesting to see if he surpasses the all-time low for a GOP Senate candidate here the 34.5 percent Dick Snelling got against Leahy in 1986. Lots of yuks all around, unless you're the Vermont Republican Party.
Question: What is your read on the race between freshman Rep. Jim Davis (D) and local county commissioner Joe Chillura (R) in Fla.'s 11th CD, a swing district? James G. Vickaryous, Tampa, Fla.
Answer: Davis, comfortably. I still don't know how he won the seat in 1996, when veteran Democrat Sam Gibbons retired and all signs pointed to the GOP taking it. But Davis has done everything right, compiling a moderate voting record, and has not made any enemies.
Question: Two races I care deeply about are apparently going down to the wire. What do you know about Oregon 1 and Utah 2? Justin M. McFadden, West Valley City, Utah
Answer: Democrats were very high on taking out freshman Rep. Merrill Cook (R-Utah), and came up with what they felt was an attractive candidate in Lily Eskelsen, the former president of the Utah Education Association. But it ain't happening. Cook will win easily.
Oregon's 1st Congressional District is a more interesting story. The district is split pretty evenly, yet the Democrats have held the seat since the 1974 elections. This year, liberal Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D) is retiring after three close elections. The GOP is banking on public relations consultant Molly Bordonaro, a conservative who at 30 would be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. The Democratic nominee is attorney David Wu, who is seeking to be the first Chinese-American elected to the House. Pick: Bordonaro.
Question: What about the race in California 27 between Rep. James Rogan (R) and Barry Gordon (D)? Rogan is the last standing Republican in this rapidly changing district, and his 100 percent Christian Coalition rating no longer fits the district's profile. Besides, all he talked about on TV was impeachment. Not a lot of Clinton haters among Dems and independents. Gordon, the former president of the Screen Actors Guild, has run a smart, strong, disciplined campaign. Mark Klein, Glendale, Calif.
Answer: Rogan should win, but I agree that this is one to watch, especially if you're trying to gauge how the Clinton impeachment issue plays out. Rogan is one of the more active Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.
Once upon a time, this was a solidly conservative, lily-white Republican area. But along with the 1990 redistricting came an influx of black and Latino voters into parts of Pasadena, and GOP numbers have fallen drastically the last three elections. Rogan himself won his first term in '96 with just 50 percent of the vote. Just as we were all surprised when Bob Dornan lost his Orange County seat two years ago when, given the new demographics of his district, we shouldn't have been we should not take our eyes off this race.
Question: My guess is that the seat of retiring Rep. Frank Riggs (R-Calif.) will fall to the Democrats. Do you agree? Brian Dennert, Eureka, Calif.
Answer: Of all the Republican House seats that look ripe for the picking by the Democrats, California's 1st Congressional District tops the list. Riggs gave up the seat for what became an abortive run for the GOP Senate nomination. But had he run for reelection, he would have been in serious trouble. In fact, many speculate that he looked at the Senate because he had no shot against state Sen. Mike Thompson (D) in the first place. Thompson is a sure bet to pick up the seat for the Democrats.
Question: Who is winning the race to succeed the very popular Rep. Lee Hamilton in Indiana's 9th CD? The district is predominately Republican, but Lee was able to run as a fiscally conservative moderate and win consistently. Bynum Henson, Brookville, Ind.
Answer: A real tossup, pitting Baron Hill, who was the Democratic Senate nominee in 1990, and state Sen. Jean Leising, the GOP nominee against Hamilton twice before. Leising came within 7,000 votes (52 to 48 percent) of shocking Hamilton out of his seat in 1994. She received a lot of party money for a second bid in 1996, but lost by over 30,000 votes. Leising is back again for a third try, and GOP polls show her up by 10 points. But I'm picking Hill in this one.
Question: Does former Tucson mayor Tom Volgy (D) have a chance against seven-term Congressman Jim Kolbe (R) in Arizona 5? Dan Beamer, Tucson, Ariz.
Answer: Not a chance. Volgy is a good campaigner and will probably come closer than any other Democratic challenger since Kolbe took office in 1985. But the Republican hasn't fallen below 65 percent in his six reelection efforts and remains widely popular in this GOP district.
Question: What are your thoughts on the race in Pennsylvania between Patrick Casey, the son of former governor Robert Casey, and businessman Don Sherwood (R) for Joe McDade's seat? Geff Blake, Moosic Lake, Penn.
Answer: This one is another of those races that is impossible to call. McDade, the senior Republican in the House, is retiring after 36 years. He has been unbeatable at home despite being under an indictment for eight years (he was later acquitted).
Casey, like his father, is anti-abortion and pro-union. The most apparent difference between Casey and millionaire car dealer Sherwood is age: Sherwood is 25 years older than the Casey, who is 32. Polls earlier in the year showed Casey with a big edge, but some sources say Sherwood has come back and may have even opened a significant lead. I'm picking Casey, but this could easily go the other way.
Question: Who's going to win the hotly contested third congressional race in Kansas between Democrat Dennis Moore and incumbent Vince Snowbarger? Jane Smith, Kansas City, Kansas
Answer: Another nail-biter. Democrats are touting Moore as the best chance they've had to win the seat since the 1950s. Snowbarger, they contend, is too far right for the district. Two years ago, when Snowbarger first won the seat, he had favorite son Bob Dole heading the ticket, and yet did no better than 50 percent.
Snowbarger's bigger problem may be the fact that he hates to raise money, and consequently Moore has been more than financially viable. If you buy the idea that the Democrats are on the rise, this should be one of the seats they pick up. But I'm sticking, nervously, with Snowbarger.
Question: Assuming you are correct in your predictions of the House/Senate makeup for the next session (see the Oct. 2O column), what if anything do you think will happen to the Republican Hill leaders Lott, Gingrich, Armey and DeLay? Jamie Hedlund, Washington, D.C.
Answer: The best question of all. There's no way to answer this, other than we have to watch whose spin carries the day after November 3. Democrats have been trying to make the argument that anything less than a 26-seat loss in the House the post-war average of midterm elections will be a victory. That, of course, is ridiculous.
I never saw a scenario where the GOP was going to make double-digit gains in the House, even at the height of the "impeach Clinton" mood in late August and early September. The fact that the Republicans picked up 52 seats in the 1994 midterms always meant there were fewer Democratic seats to go after this time. But if the last-minute decision by the GOP to run these anti-Clinton ads apparently designed by Speaker Newt Gingrich backfires on the party, and even leads to a Democratic net gain, then some of these guys are going to have their heads handed to them.
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© Copyright 1998 Ken Rudin