- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2001

Troubling questions
Today's elections in New Jersey, Virginia and New York City "serve as a reminder that the 2002 midterms are just 12 months away," political analyst Stuart Rothenberg writes in Roll Call.
"Although the events of Sept. 11 have added a large dose of uncertainty about next year, [todays] expected Democratic sweep should give Republicans something to think about," Mr. Rothenberg said.
"Political junkies of all partisan stripes know that midterms are always challenging events for the party controlling the White House. Only twice in the past century has the president's party gained House seats in those contests.
"On one level, the Democrats' expected wins [today] tell us more about local political dynamics than about next year's election landscape.
"On another level, however, the election outcomes raise at least a couple of questions that should trouble Republicans. First, both GOP gubernatorial nominees ultimately turned to taxes to try to save their candidacies, but the message didn't motivate enough voters. It may have rallied some in the base, but Republican hopefuls often need that issue to have greater reach in order to win.
"Are voters simply showing their fatigue with an issue on which the Republicans have relied for decades? Have recent events changed the way Americans look at certain kinds of issues? Or were voters too distracted by the war on terrorism and other headline-making news to pay much attention? I'm not sure, but anytime the tax issue doesn't deliver for the Republicans, they ought to feel uncomfortable.
"Second, the so-called rally effect that boosted President Bush's poll numbers after Sept. 11 didn't rub off on the Virginia and New Jersey Republican nominees."

No sure thing anymore
"The race for [New York] City Hall, which once seemed like a sure thing for Democrat Mark Green, has suddenly turned into a wild, neck-and-neck brawl in the final days," Robert Hardt Jr. and Maggie Haberman wrote yesterday in the New York Post's "Campaign Buzz" column.
"Despite repeatedly tripping himself up on the campaign trail, Republican Mike Bloomberg is within easy striking distance of Green" in today's election, the writers said.
"In the last two weeks, the billionaire businessman has had a string of press conferences ranging from goofy to disastrous from screaming at a reporter that the other candidates 'don't make anything' to calling himself a 'liberal' while a steel-jawed Gov. [George E.] Pataki looked on.
"In any other campaign season, those kinds of mistakes could be nearly fatal.
"But since Sept. 11, everything has changed.
"And with voters distracted by a war, an anthrax crisis and a World Series, the most they may be absorbing of the race is Bloomberg's multimillion-dollar TV ad buy and his assortment of targeted mailings."

A non-endorsement
"As New York City prepares to elect Rudy Giuliani's successor, the horror of September 11 has drained much of the air of vanity from tyro Michael Bloomberg's campaign on the Republican line," National Review says in an editorial in the magazine's Nov. 19 issue.
"A billionaire could find easier things to do than labor to take on what will be one of the hardest jobs on earth, and Bloomberg's persistence retroactively redeems his motives. It does not, however, boost his qualifications. He remains a liberal Democrat who switched parties to run for office. Many signs, from a patchwork reconstruction plan to an opportunistic alliance with the black radical sectary Lenora Fulani, show that he is not ready for prime time," the magazine said.
"His Democratic opponent, Mark Green, is as liberal as they come, a protege of Ramsey Clark and Ralph Nader. But he has spent 30 years in politics and government; he has shown some signs of learning (he is endorsed by Bill Bratton, Giuliani's police commissioner); and the attack may have sobered him. Conservative New Yorkers can't comfortably vote for either man, but they wish the winner, and his stricken constituency, well."

Fragile Riordan
"Several months ago, Richard Riordan set out to explore a run for governor [of California]. Since then, he has raised millions of dollars, traveled thousands of miles and captured dozens of endorsements," the Los Angeles Times reports.
"But rather than secure his position atop the Republican field, the former Los Angeles mayor has left a trail dotted with question marks," reporter Mark Z. Barabak writes.
"[Today], Riordan will declare his candidacy at El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the city's birthplace. His deep pockets, relatively high name recognition and strong support from leading Republicans make him the favorite to win the March primary.
"At the same time, however, his penchant for gaffes, thin party resume and struggle to assemble a campaign team are all vulnerabilities that make Riordan a decidedly fragile front-runner.
"The major question whether Riordan's assets will outweigh his liabilities is something even his supporters ponder. Come December, said one adviser, the Riordan campaign could be a juggernaut or a sinking ship."
A heavy turnover of campaign aides, along with various missteps and Mr. Riordan's continued ties to Democrats "have hardly produced panic," the reporter said. "But there is nervousness in GOP circles. Some of those who helped coax Riordan into the race, including boosters at the White House, have lately sought to distance themselves from his campaign."

The worst part
"What's aggravating for Republicans about Bush's decision to politically disarm is they can't grouse publicly," Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard.
"'The president's not partisan enough, he's too nice to Democrats' complaints like that would sound petty, perhaps unpatriotic. But even if Bush did campaign furiously for Republican office-seekers, it might only make things worse. President Franklin Roosevelt did that in 1942 and was seen as too political for a war president. Despite FDR's popularity, Democrats lost 55 House and nine Senate seats that year," Mr. Barnes said.
"Here's the worst part for Republicans: Not only has the war on terrorism brought out the best in Bush partly at the GOP's expense it's also brought out the best in Democrats. They've quit whining about a stolen presidency. They wear American flag pins in their lapels. They're pro-defense, pro-intervention, and pro-bombing. Some members of the former party of doves Sen. Joe Biden, Sen. Joe Lieberman sound more hawkish than Bush.
"I asked Sen. Edward Kennedy for his assessment of Bush as a war president. 'He's been an inspiring figure,' Kennedy said, 'and he's been able to get a good deal of respect and support around the world and here at home.' He didn't have a single critical word. Oddly enough, that's bad news for Republicans."

Unclaimed cash
Almost 400,000 Americans failed to collect their tax refunds or rebates this year, the National Taxpayers Union reports, citing Internal Revenue Service data.
The organization provides a database, based on IRS information, at www.ntu.org.
"Americans pay too much in taxes already, and they deserve all the savings the law provides," NTU President John Berthoud said in a prepared statement.
Many of those who missed out on their tax refunds or rebates had moved or changed their names. In some cases, the address was incorrect.


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