Pollsters See Clinton Landslide
Economic situation is said to feed voter disillusion; impact of final two debates, Perot factor still not clear
WASHINGTON — LESS than three weeks before election day, Bill Clinton seems poised for one of the biggest Electoral College victories since 1964.
State-by-state polls show Governor Clinton even threatening President Bush in regions where Republican presidential candidates are supposed to have a lock on support, such as the South and the Rocky Mountain states.
Not since Barry Goldwater lost all but six states to Lyndon Johnson 28 years ago have the Republicans been so besieged.
Analysts say it is primarily the lackluster economy that threatens to end Republican domination of the White House. The GOP has held the Oval Office for five of the past six terms.
Although Governor Clinton currently holds a commanding lead, there are still one or two pitfalls ahead during the final 19 days of the campaign.
One major unknown is the impact of Ross Perot, the independent candidate from Texas. His performance in the first debate this week surprised many voters, and his poll numbers doubled.
The other unpredictable element for Clinton will be the final two presidential debates on Oct. 15 and Oct. 19. Republicans predict that Mr. Bush will come out swinging as he sees the threat to his presidency growing.
Unless the Arkansas governor makes a major mistake, however, or his foes unearth new and damaging revelations, he is in a position to run away with the prize on Nov. 3, the experts say.
California pollster Mervin Field, who has conducted polls since Franklin Roosevelt was in the White House, says that at this moment, the race is extremely one-sided.
"Unless there is some resurgence by Bush, this will be a huge loss for the Republicans. It will be equivalent to '64," Mr. Field says.
Del Ali, whose Mason-Dixon poll has surveyed all 50 states since Labor Day, says: "The Electoral College is starting to line up so that even if all the states that are presently too close to call go to Bush, he loses."
Mr. Ali says some voters are still nervous about a Democratic White House, so the governor's top priority in the remaining debates will be to make voters feel comfortable with the idea of a Clinton presidency.
The lopsided nature of the race can be clearly seen in states like Florida, Kansas, and Indiana, which should all be firmly committed to Bush by now.
In Florida, Bush carried 66 of 67 counties four years ago against Democrat Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.
This time, political analysts in the state say Clinton and Bush are neck-and-neck, and Perot's entry could throw the state to Clinton.
In Kansas, where deep-rooted Republicanism goes back to the 1800s, Bush carried all but four counties in 1988.
Some analysts still say that they believe Bush will win there, but a Mason-Dixon poll showed him and Clinton in a dead heat.
Then there is Indiana, Vice President Dan Quayle's home state. A recent poll showed a statistical tie there between Bush and Clinton - with or without Perot in the race.
What does it all mean? Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who briefly worked for Perot's campaign, told reporters at a Monitor breakfast here that the odds are now 8 to 1 that Clinton will win.
Hearing that, Field says Mr. Rollins is actually underestimating Clinton's prospects.
LOOKING at the national map of Clinton and Bush states, it is easy to see why Clinton's stock is rising. The breadth of his support is becoming nationwide.
Analysts say Clinton has virtually locked up big-ticket states like New York, Michigan, Illinois, and California.
Among the large states, Bush is competitive only in Texas, Florida, and perhaps Ohio.
Clinton is also cutting into Republican strongholds, such as upper New England, Rocky Mountain states like Idaho, and Southern states like North Carolina and Georgia.
A poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., indicates the growing depth of Clinton support. The survey, conducted Sept. 24, 28, and 29 among 583 likely voters in New York, finds Clinton leading with 52 percent, Bush with 35 percent, Perot with 10 percent.
A Clinton victory in New York would be no surprise. But the growing depth of his support is. Of the voters surveyed, 71 percent "strongly" support Clinton, while Bush's strong support lags at 57 percent.
Less than half of Perot's backers (43 percent) strongly support him.
When Clinton supporters in New York are asked whether they would consider supporting someone else, only 3 percent say yes. When a comparable question is asked of Bush supporters, 10 percent say they might switch, while 24 percent of Perot's supporters say they might change their minds.
Perot does make the race closer, however. With him in the race, Clinton's margin over Bush is 17 points in New York.
With Perot out of the race, Clinton's margin grows to 22 points.