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Sabato’s Crystal Ball Looks At The Kerry Veepstakes And The Prez Election Outlook

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One of our biggest joys is to get our FREE issue of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the e-newsletter by University of Virginia Political Scientist Larry Sabato and his staff. We encourage you to sign up for your own copy here. Sabato’s articles are so well-written, fun, and enlightening to read that the San Diego Union-Tribune has run them uncut as pieces in its Sunday Insight section.

We’re combining two issues covering John Kerry’s running mate sweepstakes and an evaluation of the Presidential race. We’re giving you chunks but you should read both newsletters totally by going to the links.

ON JOHN KERRY’S VICE PRESIDENTIAL PICK: Sabato writes in this week’s edition:

    The name of the game is the Electoral College, and the VEEP Lotto winner surely will be someone who can bring a chunk of electoral votes to the Democratic column, right? Yes, if the process is rational. Right away, this filter eliminates loads of great candidates, whose states are already a lock for the Democrats or whose states will probably go Republican even with them on the ticket.

Go to his full text (the above link gives you the website) if you want to see who he has eliminated and why. But in the end he comes down to : Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, LA Senator John Breaux, ex-MO Rep. Dick Gephardt, WV Senator Jay Rockefeller, NM Gov. Bill Richardson, and ex-Ga Sam Nunn (WILD CARD).
Sabato goes into detail about the pluses and minuses of each of these, but we’re most intrigued by the idea of wildcard Nunn, and he writes:

    The wild card would make for a fascinating race in the Peach State. At one time the king of Georgia’s political mountain, Nunn has been out of the news since leaving the Senate in early 1997. Does he still have the old magic? Could he force Bush to spend real money in a dark-Red state? Would his encyclopedic knowledge of foreign and domestic policy–not to mention the national security issue–outweigh his vote against the 1991 Persian Gulf War (reinforcing Kerry’s own anti-war vote)?>/ul>

    Kerry’s VEEP choice “is more critical than many would concede. It will significantly help to fill in the many blank spaces Americans have in their portrait of the Democrat who would be President.”

    THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE: Sabato poses the question’ “Iraq: Bush’s Vietnam?” and recounts the setting in 1966-1967 with “the ‘rosy scenarios’ and ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ pronouncements from President Johnson, Defense Secretary McNamara, and their cohorts. Attention President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, et al.: the similarities are scary.”

    Sabato points to 1968 with Hubert Humphrey as LBJ’s surrogate — and how, no matter what, HHH represented the status quo. The still-unloved Richard Nixon was the “change” alternative and, he says, “a vote for Nixon was the only way Americans could try to turn the page, the only way citizens could attempt to extricate the nation from the bloody quagmire 8,000 miles away.” His warning:

      George W. Bush is the LBJ/HHH candidate on Iraq, and if people want to extricate the country from the Iraq quagmire, they will have no choice but to vote for John Kerry, however much they may dislike him or disagree with him on other issues. If the preeminent issue in November is Iraq, Bush will lose.

    But, Sabato writes, the Bushies know this so “,the President intends to keep his July 1 turnover deadline in Iraq. Let the Iraqi Governing Council deal with the violence and kidnapping and rioting during the general election campaign! Iraq…(but) we’ll be there in some form for years and years.”

    Furthermore, he predicts:

    (1)The 911 Commission will ultimately be viewed as an embarrassment….because of its partisan posturing and ” the Bush Administration was absolutely right to oppose the formation of the 9/11 Commission–or as the Crystal Ball is calling it, The 20/20 Hindsight Commission–if only because 2004 is a presidential election year.” Election year turned it into a partisan “blame game” with cheering 911 families giving it ” the nasty whiff of Jerry Springer–or an old-fashioned mob.”

    (2)The 911 Commission report will be issued on the eve of the Democratic convention and since “the goal is Commission unanimity, equal blame will have to be apportioned to the Clinton and Bush administrations… When it is released in late July, the report will become a tough-leather political football in Boston, presumably thrown from field to field and coast to coast all the way to November.”

    THE ECONOMY’S IMPACT: “The stunning addition of 308,000 jobs in March–plus an upgrading of job gains for January and February–offers Bush his salvation. The trick, though, is that he needs strong numbers through the early fall in order to convince Americans that this shift is real, and not simply an election-year manipulation….”

    JOHN KERRY’S CHANCES:”John Kerry is not the strongest Democratic nominee the Crystal Ball has seen over the years, but despite his faults, he can overcome Bush’s attacks and win the White House as long as the American people continue to be as unsettled as they are now.”

    WHAT BUSH NEEDS: The President “President needs the blessing of the one critical figure to desert him in 20…the goddess Fortuna. Some good luck on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and the many facets of the economy can save Bush, and maybe even propel him to a substantial victory that would wipe out memories of 2000. Maybe. Right now, this scenario seems very far out of reach, an electoral pipedream for a beleaguered leader.”

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  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Great link – I’ve signed up for the newsletter.

    On the jobs picture, the 308,000 jobs added in March, an average of 171,000/month for the last six months, isn’t all that “stunning.” I’m hoping the next figures will show this to be a rising trend rather than just an aberration :-)

    The reason the March number doesn’t impress is that it overlooks a few significant factors.

    One factor is that we need about 137,000 new jobs each month, 1,640,000 per year, just to compensate for the increase in working-age population. That makes the real average net gain for the last six months about 34,000. At that rate, it’s going to take nearly six years just to make up for the 2.4 million jobs lost so far in this administration (and we’ll only be at break-even).

    Another factor was mentioned by Greenspan – 85,000 workers run out of unemployment benefits each week, 340,000 in March alone. That’s 200,000 per month more than did the same in September 2000.

    The jobs picture is still a long ways from being rosy.