Independent voters lean Republican

Regarding your article "Will GOP faithful bolt Bush?" (Feb. 25): Far too much is being made of the fact that Bush is winning the Republican vote, while McCain is dependent on the vote of independents.

In states with open primaries, there is far less incentive for voters to register under a party name, even if their state has party registration. It is likely that many of the independent voters who have gone for McCain in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Michigan are in fact voters who lean Republican.

It is reasonable to assume that a large percentage of these self-identified independents who vote for McCain would, in fact, be registered Republicans if their states had closed primaries. Therefore, McCain's support among voters who tend to favor the Republican Party is surely being substantially underestimated.

Matthew Shugart Carlsbad, Calif.

There is no mystery about the genuine enthusiasm of independents and Democrats for Sen. John McCain. Just look at the pictures of McCain with crowds of people: This is a man who genuinely likes people.

It is obvious that a broad section of the electorate is touched by this quality. And it is precisely this that makes it possible for a candidate to reach over party lines. McCain has an extremely conservative record, almost certainly more conservative than the views of the typical American voter.

George W. Bush is not the morose plodder the Republicans ran last time, but his actions both as candidate and as governor scarcely reflect the marketing slogan, "compassionate conservatism." Voters are demonstrating that they will respond to authenticity, even if the ideology is off.

John W. Chuckman Portland, Maine

Hizbullah uses civilian areas for attacks

Contrary to the commentary in Bahman Baktiari's and Augustus Richard Norton's Feb. 16 opinion piece "Israel's escape hatch," Hizbullah has not "acted responsibly and within the rules" of the 1996 cease-fire agreement. In a Feb. 3 meeting, the official Monitoring Group (set up to monitor compliance with the 1996 cease-fire between Israel and Lebanon) found Hizbullah to have violated the agreement by firing from within civilization population areas on eight different occasions from Jan. 21 to 31.

Baktiari and Norton claim that "Its [Hizbullah's] goal is to expel Israel from Lebanon, not to attack Israeli territory." The Monitoring Group found that an additional and severe violation of the cease-fire agreement occurred Jan. 30, when Hizbullah fired at an Israeli kindergarten.

Furthermore, very recent statements by Hizbullah's leaders make it clear that one of their firm goals is to destroy Israel. On Feb. 16, Hizbullah leader Nasrullah said that even after Israel and Lebanon reached a settlement, "Israel would still be regarded by it as an illegitimate and illegal entity, transient and cancerous, and would not be recognized."

Far from being an acceptable political party, Hizbullah remains a terrorist organization that continues to attack civilian targets within Israel, endangers Lebanese civilians by firing from within their midst, and refuses to end its quest to destroy Israel.

Lee Green Boston

The real cost of living in boomtown

Regarding "It pays to live in Boomtown, USA" (Feb. 28): You should have also included comparisons of the cost of living for the cities mentioned.I strongly suspect that the cost of living makes the salary differences inconsequential, and the net result may even be a decrease in actual living money.

Rebecca Gilman Vancouver, Wash.

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