Washington Prowler

Greenshrumville

Messrs. Greenberg, Shrum and Carville hear what they want to hear. Not only Republicans think so. Also: Forgotten Keating.

By 7.1.02

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TRIO CON BRIO
They don't work together often, but when they do, you can expect the work of Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg and political consultants Bob Shrum and James Carville to be something special for Democrats. And in the case of a recent poll and analysis, their output certainly brought smiles to the faces of people like Tom Daschle and Dick Gephardt.

That's because the three-headed monster reports that Republicans are highly vulnerable in the 2002 elections. So vulnerable, in fact, that Democrats are in prime position to sweep through statehouses and both houses of Congress.

The poll, taken in late June, surveyed 1,000 likely voters. They were asked to list in order of importance the issues that were most important to them, their families, and their communities. Education topped the list, followed by the economy and jobs, Social Security and Medicare, and affordable health care.

At the bottom of the list at No. 5 was the War on Terror. And better still, those who listed the first four categories added they were most likely to vote Democratic because they felt those issues were so important. This, said Greenberg, Shrum and Carville, was concrete evidence that Bush and the Republicans were cruising for a bruising in the fall elections, because they were focusing so much of their attention on the war, instead of the so-called "kitchen table" issues. "The Republicans are weakening. The Democrats are back," Greenshrumville wrote.

They advise that Democrats keep campaigning with an "affirmative" voice, on "Making prescription drugs the highest priority, protecting the Social Security trust fund, a middle class tax cut, and transforming and strengthening the military to face off in our war on terror.

But other Democratic pollsters inside the DNC are doubtful that their colleagues have it right, much as they hope they do. "I'm not sure the enthusiasm is founded," says one Democratic pollster with contracts with the DNC.

He points to the questions, which focused survey respondents on issues of importance to them, not on issues of importance to the nation. "When we poll and ask people what is important to the country, the war on terror is number one every time. And Bush's numbers are so strong. We don't know if he'll have coattails, but he sure likes he could have some."

Bush's favorables remain at 70 percent, well above any other president at this point in his administration. "It's unheard of," says a Republican pollster. "We have a chance to hold the House and maybe retake the Senate in a midterm. I think that has only happened twice in history, that we don't lose seats. We'll take that."

Further undercutting the Greenshrumville analysis, says the Democratic pollster, is that when likely voters are asked about the 2002 elections, they are more concerned about stability and making sure President Bush is allowed to lead. "Regardless of party, they seem to want to help the president. That probably means keeping the status quo."

That's good for Daschle, not so good for Gephardt.

FAITH TESTED
Outgoing Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who was hopeful of being named George Bush's running mate, then hopeful of being named Attorney General or head of the FBI, was apparently hesitant to take on his new job as chairman of a commission set up by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"He was still hoping for an administration job," says an associate of Keating. "Up to a few days ago he was hoping his name would pop up for Secretary of Homeland Security. It didn't, so he's moving on."

In his new capacity, Keating and a committee of eleven other Roman Catholics will investigate ways for the church to better deal with the ongoing pedophilia and homosexual scandal that is adversely affecting the church.

"His faith is important to him, and he knows he's doing good work, but it's not what he expected to be doing now," says the Keating friend. "He was really hopeful of getting a senior Bush post. But for whatever reason, he's out in the cold."

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