A combination of a just war, a recovering economy, the deaf ear
of Democratic operatives and a last-minute reminder that the Carter-Mondale
era (i.e., tax, spend and inflate) was another Great Society failure seems
to have injected the electorate with an intensity that could deliver
Congress to the GOP on Tuesday.
Over the course of a hard-fought midterm campaign season, voters
have been handed reason after reason to pull the Republican lever this time
around, while nearly every political maneuver attempted by the Democrats has
The Democrats blamed a recession economy and a plunging stock
market on President Bush. But Americans understood that these negatives --
now corrected under Bush -- were inherited from the days of Clinton-Gore.
They tried to pin corporate corruption on Bush. But sophisticated
shareholding voters correctly linked the business scandals to miscreant
executives, and not the capitalist system.
The last-minute weaseling of Sen. Tom Daschle didn't fool voters
either. His obstructionist tactics to prevent key votes on the war, judges,
energy, homeland security and terrorist insurance hardly endeared the
electorate -- much to the dismay of the Democratic Party.
Finally, there was the specter of the Paul Wellstone "memorial
service." Instead of a somber reflection on the tragic loss of Minnesota's
left-wing but still beloved senator, the nation was treated to a harsh
political campaign rally. The extreme partisanship of this event was
symbolized by the decision of Democratic Party operatives to exclude Vice
President Dick Cheney because of allegedly burdensome security arrangements.
Meanwhile, the former executive-branch duo of Bill Clinton and Al Gore, who
receive nearly the same security as Cheney, got front-row seats to the sham
Pulling all these storylines together, an election-eve Gallup
poll reveals an astonishing turnaround in likely voter sentiment. As of the
last weekend of the race, the critical period when all recent elections have
been settled, the new poll holds that voters prefer Republicans to Democrats
by 51 percent to 45 percent in House races, a 9-point shift from two weeks
ago, when Democrats led Republicans 49 percent to 46 percent. The lead
mirrors the 6-point advantage held by the GOP in the final days of the 1994
election, when they won control of the House and Senate.
The Gallup is the grandaddy of all polls, and most likely it was
a combination of factors that delivered this startling turnaround. Surely
the global war on terror, waged effectively by President Bush, is a critical
factor. The serial sniper murders and the Al Qaeda nightclub bombing in Bali
near the end of the midterm campaign only reminded voters of the need for
strong wartime leadership.
But if the Republicans do the impossible and recapture the
Senate, the economy will have loomed large in voter calculations. Although
most political experts missed it, the economy is getting better. And October
2002 was Wall Street's best monthly performance since January 1987.
Since most experts still do not understand the political power
of the investor class, they fail to see the market rally as a barometer of
economic improvement and voter confidence in the Bush plan. While Democrats
campaigned on a so-called imploding economy, third-quarter gross domestic
product -- reported only a week before the election -- rose 3 percent. This
is the fourth consecutive quarterly increase following Sept. 11, and it
clearly disproves the dire economic warnings of the Democrats and the
consensus of dismal-science economists.
As the president himself asserted on the campaign trail, "Our
economy needs to be stronger." But the public gives Bush credit for passing
a personal tax cut in 2001 and a business tax cut earlier this year. Many
voters seem to believe that a Republican-led Congress will generate
additional pro-growth tax cuts if given the opportunity.
And as much as anything, the Wellstone political rally may have
driven undecided voters into the Republican column. Why? Because the
overriding figure of that faux memorial service was the old Democratic
warhorse Walter Mondale -- one of the key architects of the Jimmy Carter
years of stagflation and the embarrassing decline of American prowess around
the world. At a time of great security peril, no one -- and that means no
one in their right mind in this nation -- wants to see a return of
Carter-Mondale domestic and foreign policy.
The contrast between George Bush -- the most popular U.S.
politician in nearly 40 years -- and Walter Mondale's heritage of failure
(and let's throw in an increasingly visible Al Gore) may well be enough to
give the Republican Party an extraordinary across-the-board triumph on Nov.