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Taking political stock

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It seems a good moment to ask myself some questions and see if I have perceived, or learned, anything that may throw light on the complicated political scene.

Who's going to win that New York Senate race?

Once again, in the wake of the second presidential debate, I called that highly regarded pollster, John Zogby. He said his findings showed Hillary Clinton ahead of Rick Lazio by four points, 44 to 40. He added that Mr. Lazio could still win if he campaigns vigorously upstate from now until the election. "Lazio is only seven percentage points ahead of Clinton upstate," he told me, "and he has the potential to do much better there."

Joseph Lieberman's addition to the presidential ticket has been of great help to Mrs. Clinton, according to Zogby. He points out that no New York statewide Democratic candidate has ever won without Jewish backing in the 70 percentiles. He says that Mrs. Clinton - once down in the mid-40s in percentages among Jewish voters - now is up in the 70s with that group of voters.

Zogby's summation: "Mrs. Clinton is in a good position to win, but not to walk to a victory. Lazio still has a chance."

How goes the presidential race?

On the weekend before the last debate several polls, (Gallup, The Washington Post, among others) showed George W. Bush ahead by three percentage points. Indeed, this upward surge of Mr. Bush was reflected in big headlines and much attention on TV programs. My reading of Al Gore in the debate was of a candidate who was tiptoeing very carefully because he knew that the race was tilting toward Bush and he would have to be exceedingly careful not to do or say anything that would push that tilt into a trend.

Zogby, too, recorded that rise for Bush but, on the day of the debate, found the contest returning to a deadlock, 43 to 43. On the tightness of the race he said: "I don't think the debate changed anything."

Have there been any recent gains by Bush in closely contested battleground states?

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