Issues that could tip the final balance

Some more questions and some more answers - the best I can come up with:

Who will win?

This close race will prod people to get out and vote. Indeed, the decline in voting in our presidential elections may come to a halt this November. If so, the American people will be the winner.

Who won the debates?

The best debate was put on by the vice presidential nominees, Joseph Lieberman and Dick Cheney. I gave them a tie on points. But because of the very low expectations that Mr. Cheney would perform well, I picked him as the winner.

It was a civilized exchange with both men showing full knowledge of the issues. Perhaps both men bent the truth a bit to make a political point here and there - but it wasn't enough to mar a performance in which it seemed to me that here were a couple of honest fellows who were doing their best to bring enlightenment to the campaign. As they joshed together, from time to time, it became quite evident that they liked each other. I felt better about America after listening to these two candidates. My thought afterward: What excellent presidential candidates they could be.

Who has the "Big Mo" - Al Gore or George W. Bush?

Both candidates claim they have the momentum. But Republican pollster Bill McInturff says that with the race so close it is not at all clear who has the political wind blowing in his direction.

Mr. McInturff, at a Monitor breakfast, counseled us to keep our eyes on the white vote in assessing who is moving ahead. He said that when Mr. Bush holds a slight lead, he is winning by about 25 percent among white males and by about 3 percent among white females. He said that when votes for Bush from these groups falls below these percentages, the race moves toward Mr. Gore. He pointed out that when the polls a week ago showed Gore surging up to a one- or two-point lead over Bush, the Bush lead among white males was 18 percentage points and Bush was "just breaking even" with white women.

How to assess the Clinton impact?

This is the great question of this race. As President Clinton goes out to California and some other states and implores his faithful followers to get out and vote, will it be a plus or minus for Gore?

Mr. Clinton doubtless will be able to energize the Democratic base - particularly African Americans, who are almost totally in his camp - to go the polls. But, at the same time, he could also energize those who are hostile to Clinton to get out and vote.

The Democrats are taking a big risk by unleashing Clinton. But it appears that they will not take that gamble in the too-close-to-call battleground states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Missouri.

How important are the Clinton-related scandals in shaping the outcome of this election?

Extremely important, even though the subject of impeachment wasn't even mentioned in the four debates. It's a burning issue, one which is determining how many Americans are going to vote.

I see evidence of this in the voter response to the "likability" question being asked by the pollsters. All along, voters have been saying they find Bush more "likable" than Gore. As I view it, these voters are saying they not only find Bush more personally attractive, but they also see in Bush a candidate who, more than Gore, possesses the character traits they would like our next president to possess. Could this close election turn on this character issue - which, of course, is related directly to the scandals of the Clinton-Gore adminstration?

Absolutely. And it's clear now that Bush will be referring to impeachment and the fundraising scandals wherever he goes - as he did the other night in an interview on Fox TV when he said: "After all the shouting and the scandal we can begin again."

What has sparked Gore's recent upsurge?

At a Monitor breakfast the other day the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, told us he's convinced that recent events abroad have helped Gore immensely.

He said that the turmoil in the Mideast reminded voters that they needed an experienced leader in the presidency to deal with such problems - and that Gore had gained that experience as a vice president who had for eight years helped advise Clinton on foreign affairs.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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