- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 6, 2002

Democrats and Republicans look at the same recent poll numbers concerning the political fallout from corporate accounting scandals, the economy and prescription drugs and see totally different indications for November's congressional election.
"Clearly something is going on out there," said Jim Jordan, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, who told reporters in an election outlook briefing yesterday that the national trends have boosted Democrats' chances in Senate races in Maine, Oregon and Oklahoma.
Howard Wolfson, Mr. Jordan's counterpart at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said House Democratic candidates are doing "better than people would expect them to do" in House races in South Dakota, Indiana and Texas, among others.
What Democrats see is a backlash against Republicans in Washington for the recent corporate scandals, for the slumping stock market, and over Republicans' plans for Social Security.
But House Republicans are looking at the same numbers and aren't seeing the same national effects, said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, Virginia Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
"I still see this as a race-by-race dynamic," Mr. Davis told reporters last week in his own briefing. "We're [polling] in the field a lot and we're seeing no national trend."
All 435 seats in the House and 34 Senate seats are up for election in November. Republicans hold a 223-210 edge in the House, in addition to an open seat and the chamber's lone independent, who caucuses with the Democrats. Democrats hold a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, thanks to Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent.
Democrats say polls show the issues voters will consider when casting their ballot are good for Democratic candidates, like Social Security and the economy. They also said there's a slight but significant state-by-state shift in feelings toward the two parties, with Democrats doing better than Republicans, particularly among independents.
And Democrats point to the number of voters who say the country is on the wrong track, which is increasing. Mr. Wolfson said polls show the public considers Republicans in control of Washington, which means the GOP will be blamed for those "wrong track" numbers.
Mr. Davis, though, said those numbers just aren't translating down to the individual districts though he said they are having an effect on incumbent governors of both parties.
"What people are not doing is blaming Bush, blaming Congress. But I think they are looking for some relief, and they're giving a chance before the blame comes, they're saying, 'What can you do about it?'" Mr. Davis said. "I think we've responded appropriately."
He said the chance that Republicans lose their House majority is "30 [percent] max."
"I still think, as we sit here, we are more likely to pick up seats than lose seats, just given the way redistricting has gone, the strengthening [of incumbents districts] and everything else," he said. That process, he said, has produced so few competitive seats that Democrats would have to win a gigantic proportion to gain a majority.
One independent analyst agreed. Stuart Rothenberg, publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report, said his latest district-by-district political analysis shows Republicans are poised to win 216 seats, while the Democrats have 201 in hand.
That leaves 18 seats up for grabs 10 Republican seats, three Democratic seats and five toss-up seats, which are either new or held jointly by incumbents of both parties.
"Given those numbers, the most likely outcome for November would be anything from a small Democratic gain of a seat or two to a mid-single-digit GOP gain," he said.

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