Jewish World Review April 3, 2000 /27 Adar II, 5760
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- CONCERNING PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS, can we all agree that conventional wisdom is not as reliable as it used to be? Can we concede that so many rules have been broken in this election cycle -- and some before -- that we should rely on more than history to guide our electoral predictions this year?
We live in a very dynamic, fluid society. People are moving in and out of states, in and out of this country and in and out of income strata too rapidly to make anything in politics predictable to a reasonable degree of certainty. Trends that used to take decades to develop, and even longer to dissipate, can now be changed overnight. The only thing that's predictable is unpredictability.
With that in mind, George Bush should ignore all political gurus and other geniuses who insist he has no chance of capturing California's 54 electoral votes.
Let's face it: most pundits who have been around awhile tend to think inside the box. It's hard for them to conceive of scenarios that fall outside their experience or knowledge base.
Conventional wisdom taught that New Hampshire was a bellwether state, i.e., as New Hampshire went, so went the nation. Bill Clinton, Pat Buchanan, and George W. Bush ended that myth.
The punditocracy was nearly unanimous in overestimating the influence of the momentum factor. "If McCain upsets Bush in New Hampshire, (and) then Michigan, there will be no stopping McCain." After South Carolina, they changed their tune, but still got it wrong: "Bush's victory in South Carolina is not indicative of any trends because it is a unique haven for right-wing religious bigots."
Even the heretofore-infallible pollster extraordinaire, John Zogby, has missed a few calls this year. But more shocking has been the declining accuracy of exit polls. In previous elections, if the networks projected the results, you could go to sleep at 8 p.m. banking on their accuracy within decimal points. This year, they have been off in many cases by more than the margin of error.
Which leads me back to California. Most experts are telling Bush to write it off. Analyst Charlie Cook contends that California is not really a pivotal state because "if Democrats have to worry about California, it means they already have lost the rest of the country. Conversely, if Republicans can win California, they don't need to, because they're already sweeping the country." In other words, Bush shouldn't waste his time in California (other than to help other GOP candidates).
But note that in the California primary, Republicans received almost 800,000 more actual votes than Democrats. Some may choose to discount this on the basis that there was more interest being generated on the Republican side, and thus, a higher voter turnout. But can they be so sure?
The politically astute, but misguided, Chris Matthews devoted a column to dissuading Bush from deigning to pursue California because of three insurmountable voter obstacles: pro-choicers, Latinos and gays. But can he be so sure?
National Review argues that if Republicans don't succeed in California, it's their fault, not the California voters, among whom conservatism is alive and well. Contrary to Chris Matthews, NR points out that 61 percent of California voters supported the codification of marriage as a heterosexual institution and that only 30 percent of voters agreed with Gore's position on abortion. In addition, they note that voters also beat back the latest attempt to weaken Proposition 13, the 1978 measure that puts limits on taxes, spending and bond issuance and that Clinton fatigue is going to be a real liability for Gore. Oh yes, remember when the sages guaranteed that an impeachment backlash would damage Republicans?
The Washington Times' Donald Lambro undercuts the third leg of Matthews' California Democratic tripod by observing that Bush is drawing half of the Hispanic vote nationally. He adds that Bush is also eating into another Clinton/Gore standby: soccer moms.
I'm making no predictions here, but I am saying that we
should be wary of those who are. In this
information-driven, frenetic age, all bets are off.
California is in play, and Bush should fulfill his promise to
make Gore sweat for every last vote in that state and
elsewhere. He should go for the