- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

The contest for control of the Senate is so close that some Republicans last week tried to recruit Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot to replace the party's candidate who dropped out of the race in Montana.
Mr. Racicot, the popular former Montana governor, was formally asked to run in place of state Sen. Mike Taylor. But the RNC chairman turned down the request, Republican officials told The Washington Times.
That left Republicans with no one to run against Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, but still needing to gain one seat to retake Senate control.
Still, if the election were held today, according to pollster John Zogby, Republicans would make the needed one-seat pickup though that assessment is based on polling results that are within the margin of error.
"If the election were held today, the Republicans would pick up Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota," Mr. Zogby said. "They even have a shot at picking up Georgia. But Democrats would pick up Arkansas and Colorado."
Some Republicans privately said they would add New Hampshire to that list of Democrats' gains.
The latest polls, in fact, show 10 Senate contests within the margin of error, including the three targeted by both parties: Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota.
Zogby polls for MSNBC show that in Missouri, Republican Jim Talent leads Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan by 6 percentage points. In South Dakota, Republican Rep. John Thune leads Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson by 2 points.
But in a swift turnaround, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone who trailed by 6 percentage points in the Zogby poll last month shows a 9-point lead over Republican Norm Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor.
Both campaigns say their internal polling continues to have the race a tie. But Wellstone campaign manager Jeff Blodgett noted that in the last two weeks Wellstone ads show Mr. Coleman, a former Democrat, flip-flopping on issues. One ad notes that he switched parties after he had endorsed President Clinton and Mr. Wellstone in 1996.
Mr. Zogby stands by his latest poll but still thinks Mr. Coleman has the edge because "only 45 percent [of respondents] say Wellstone deserves re-election. That number and the fact that less than 50 percent say they will vote for him is bad news for any incumbent."
"Voters are saying they want someone new in the Senate, and the burden on Coleman now is to show he is the new someone they want," Mr. Zogby said.
The Missouri results were also a surprise, since unions have spent heavily on advertising for Mrs. Carnahan, who was leading Mr. Talent by 48 percent to 40 percent in a Zogby poll Sept. 21. Most ominous for the Democrat, only 45 percent of women say they would vote for her, compared with 53 percent last month.
In Colorado, however, Republicans look like they could lose a seat because Democrat challenger Tom Strickland leads Sen. Wayne Allard by a single percentage point, 41 to 40 percent, with the Libertarian candidate at 5 percent and 13 percent undecided. If people who say they are undecided this late bother to vote at all, they tend to break for the challenger, pollsters say.
Also in Arkansas, Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson is tied with Democrat Mark Pryor at 45 percent, with 9 percent undecided. This could make that a second Democrat pickup.
Republicans once thought they could win a seat in New Jersey. But former Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, pinch-hitting for disgraced Democratic Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, now leads Republican challenger Douglas Forrester 48 percent to 36 percent.
In South Carolina, retiring Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond's seat looks safe, with Republican Rep. Lindsay Graham leading by 47 percent to 35 percent over Democrat Alex Sanders.
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cornyn's 8 percentage point lead (45 percent to 37 percent) over Democrat Ron Kirk in Texas is outside the Oct. 9-11 Zogby poll's error margin of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
But Mr. Kirk has narrowed that margin from 12 points last month, and Mr. Zogby said that the Democrat's advantage among black voters (82 percent to 7 percent) will make the race closer in the final three weeks.


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