- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 20, 2000

Republicans have an edge in November's presidential and congressional elections nationally, and thanks to Hispanics, George W. Bush is making the presidential race competitive even in California, according to two new polls.

One poll, conducted by Democrat Celinda Lake and Republican Ed Goeas, also found that Republicans are more motivated than Democrats to vote this November.

A majority of voters like both where the country is headed and the job their representative in Congress is doing a potential advantage for Republicans, who have majorities in both the House and Senate, according to the national Battleground Poll.

Miss Lake said Mr. Bush, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, led Vice President Al Gore among Hispanics nationally because they like his personality and trust his policies as governor of Texas.

Another poll, however, found Mr. Gore leads Mr. Bush among Hispanics 55 percent to 35 percent. But even that finding was good news for the Bush campaign, according to Mark DiCamillio, director of the Field Poll.

"If Bush can hold on to that 35 percent and get 3 more percentage points from the undecided Latino vote, he'll get close to 40 percent of that vote enough to make California competitive for Bush," he said.

Whenever Republicans got 40 percent or better of the California Hispanic vote, they won the state and the presidency.

The Field Poll also found that 20 percent of California's Democrats intend to vote Republican or for a third-party candidate, while only 10 percent of the state's Republicans say they are inclined to desert their party in November.

In the Battleground Poll, Mr. Bush leads Mr. Gore 57 percent to 36 percent.

Many analysts are beginning to say that, barring some colossal misstep by Mr. Bush or Mr. Gore, the presidential nomination contests in both parties are pretty much over, even before the first formal contests, the Jan. 24 Iowa caucuses and the Feb. 1 New Hampshire primary.

"Only the media think [Arizona Sen.] John McCain could defeat Bush" for the Republican nomination, said Ron Faucheux, editor in chief of Congressional Quarterly's Campaigns & Elections magazine.

Mr. Faucheux, who attended the Battleground Poll briefing at the National Press Club yesterday, told The Washington Times he thinks Mr. Bush stands a better than good chance of tying or even beating Mr. McCain in New Hampshire, where some polls now show Mr. McCain in the lead.

"Bush could definitely win New Hampshire if you have a big snowstorm and low turnout out and if [Mr. Gore's Democratic rival] Bill Bradley really catches on with independent voters there," Miss Lake said in an interview. "Bradley and McCain clearly exchange the male independent vote."

"I also think people are underestimating the kick Bush will get out of Iowa, where McCain is not competing, and you can't measure that right now," Miss Lake said. "If Bush really carries Iowa big, that's really going to help him."

Mr. Goeas noted that Democrats in Congress enjoyed an edge on Medicare, the environment, education and health care, while Republicans got better marks form respondents on foreign affairs, taxes and balancing the budget.

Mr. Gore, who has kept his distance from President Clinton, could help himself by taking advantage of the electorate's satisfaction with the administration's management of the economy, Miss Lake and Mr. Goeas concluded in their bipartisan survey.

The Battleground Poll of 1,000 likely voters was taken Jan. 3 through 5 and has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The Field Poll of 1,076 Californians, including 770 likely voters, was taken Jan. 7 through 17 and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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