October 27, 2002
DEMS +2?:A tip sheet on the Senate battle (Mugger, 10/21/02, NY Press)
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 balls 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.
Given the current storyline this looks depressingly close to what might happen, but the story's changed so often this year that maybe something worthwhile will occur in the next 9 days. Posted by Orrin Judd at October 27, 2002 10:19 AM