FRED WOLFERMAN: Predictions Fade In Instant Replay
Seven hundred words are not very many to divide into two parts, but I'm going to give it a shot.
Today is Tuesday, Election Day. I'm going to make my predictions now, and review the results tomorrow in the second half of this column. You'll just have to trust me on this. If I'm too embarrassed for you to see it, you won't.
I'm going out on a big limb that's about 90 percent sawed off: I think the Republicans will hold both houses of Congress.
I'm not sure that will be a good thing, but I think the party base is worried enough about what the Democrats will try to do that it will turn out in big numbers.
I also think Democratic voters may be a bit complacent after all the polls showing their party leading in so many races. It is also raining on the East Coast as I write, and that may help some Republicans squeak by on low turnout, notably George Allen in Virginia.
But it is going to be very close. Tomorrow may not be soon enough to be certain about the results.
In the Senate, I think Burns will hold in Montana, Santorum will lose in Pennsylvania, Chaffee will hang on in Rhode Island and Steele will win in Maryland. Back home in Missouri, Talent will keep his seat.
The House will be very tight, but the Republicans will prevail. Then, of course, there are the largely unheralded but probably most important contests of all: the governorships. There are 36 available, and they will determine local issues and grass-roots organization in the coming years. If the Democrats win big there, all bets are off in 2008.
The most popular man in Washington will be Joe Lieberman, who will retain his seat as a nominal independent, and will be wooed shamelessly by both parties. All the Democrats who supported him in the primary, then dumped him after he lost the primary and decided to run as an independent in the general election, will come crawling back. Connecticut will probably get more federal dollars than any state in history as everybody tries to buy Joe's vote.
This is a problematic election. On the one hand, it seems a terrible idea to confirm the Republicans and encourage them in their profligacy and incompetence; on the other, do we really want a bunch of hard-core liberal Democrats to take over the leadership of both houses? Then there's Iraq. It's a mess, and nobody seems to know what to do about it.
Anyway, it's all only a prelude to 2008, when everything will be up for grabs. No matter who wins, we are in for two years of bitter backbiting and a legislative tar pit: everybody blackened and going nowhere.
So much for Tuesday. Back tomorrow
Well, you have to give me high marks for honesty.
I could have just started over. Besides, I hit nearly 100 percent on my Senate picks. I was only correct on Santorum. I'm not particularly disappointed; the Republicans got what they deserved. The problem is, the Democrats don't deserve what they got.
I could be wrong (see Tuesday's comments), but I don't think the war in Iraq was the only, or even the principal, reason for the Republicans' crash. Yes, it was important, but since everybody wants it over and nobody knows how to make that happen, I think it may have been more like the final straw for an electorate simply fed up with incompetence.
The pundits have called this election a referendum on the president. What if they are wrong? What if it was just a referendum on Congress? Well, buckle up. It's only going to get worse.
We are about to have the two least productive years in memory in Washington. Forget any of the entitlement reforms we so desperately need. Forget any rewritten tax laws. The only good news is that pork may decrease as the president uncaps his veto pen on Democratic spending bills, something he refused to do to Republicans.
The Democrats promise a new direction. Good luck. What we are going to see is a mad scramble toward 2008, with a dozen people in each party running for president, while lesser lights jump for the next available rung on the ladder.
I'd like to hope the Republicans will regroup and return to their traditional roots; I'd like to hope the Democrats will address serious issues seriously. Neither is going to happen. They are all too used to buying their way into power.
I was right about two things, though: The governorships fell heavily for the Democrats. This does not bode well for Republican grass roots efforts. And Joe Lieberman is going to be the most popular, if not the most powerful, man in Washington. Maybe after two more years of internal wrangling, with who-knows-what going on in Iraq, the country will be ready for a serious independent candidacy.
You go, Joe.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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