Clinton “undertow.” That’s the label used by most Washington, D.C.-based political analysts to explain expected Democratic losses in the Congressional elections next month.
However, losses anticipated by this “undertow” scenario are very modest. ABC’s veteran political editor, Hal Bruno, said last week that Republicans will probably “pick up 15 seats in the Senate.” Last Friday, on PBS’s Washington Week in Review, respected U.S. News & World Reportreporter Steve Roberts opined that “Republicans are not going to succeed as much as they think they are.”
A highly regarded public opinion analyst who lives in Princeton, NJ., told me he thought the Republicans would pick up 20-22 seats in the House and 6-7 seats in the Senate.
This “undertow” scenario dominates the views of the media establishment. It is essentially a “business-as-usual” scenario, typical of inside-the-Beltway political analysis.
There is another point of view. Let’s call it the “tsunami” scenario. Riding the tsunami wave, Republicans can win the seven seats they need to take control of the Senate before polls close in the Rocky Mountain time zone.
How? With Republican wins in Maine (Rep. Olympia Snowe leads Rep. Tom Andrews), Virginia (Oliver North over Sen. Chuck Robb), Pennsylvania (Rep. Rick Santorum over Sen. Harris Wofford), Ohio (Lt. Gov. Mike DeWine trounces Joel Hyatt), Michigan (Republican Spencer Abraham leads Rep. Bob Carr) and Tennessee, where there are two seats (Fred Thompson leads Rep. Jim Cooper for Al Gore’s former seat, and physician Bill Frist over Sen. Jim Sasser). This count does not include Democratic seats seriously challenged by Republicans in New Jersey and Massachusetts, where businessman Mitt Romney is neck and neck with Sen. Ted Kennedy.
West of the Mississippi, Republican seats at risk in Montana, Missouri, Wyoming and Minnesota are now leaning Republican, and Republicans are likely to pick up a Democratic seat in Arizona, where Rep. Jon Kyle leads Rep. Sam Coppersmith to replace retiring Sen. Dennis DeConcini. Republican challengers are also nudging Democrat incumbents in Nebraska, where Jan Stoney is closing in on Sen. Bob Kerrey, and in California, where Rep. Michael Huffington is running neck and neck with Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Tsunami result: A U.S. Senate with 52 or 53 Republicans.
The tsunami also will inundate House races, where even House leaders such as Speaker Tom Foley D-Wash., and Majority Whip Pat Williams, D-Mont., are at risk and 122 of 435 seats are considered “competitive” — more than since Franklin Roosevelt’s tsunami in 1932.
Last week, Ross Perot unleashed a new storm encouraging his followers to vote for the GOP. Tsunami result: Conservative control of the 104th Congress that convenes in January.
Because the “tsunami” scenario is at least as likely as the “undertow” scenario on Nov. 8, those who want to influence or understand the course of public policy in the U.S. would be well-advised to pay less attention to Beltway analysts and start learning the names of ranking Republican members of key committees that affect the issues of their region. Contrary to Tip O’Neill’s dictum that “All politics are local,” the Republicans have succeeded in nationalizing the 1994 congressional elections.”