By Dave Kopel
Colorado Statesman, Dec. 29, 1995
A little while ago, I called up Stuart Rothenberg, one of America's top political prognosticators, to see what he foresaw for 1996. Here's what he said to expect:
In the Republican Presidential race, Bob Dole will probably win the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and for all practical purposes, the race will be over.
Texas Senator Phil Gramm hopes to stay close to Dole in Iowa and New Hampshire, and then start beating him in the Southern primaries. But although Gramm has a strong conservative message, the messenger's personality is turning out to be a major handicap.
In fact, Gramm, rather than finishing a close second in New Hampshire, could come in third or fourth behind magazine publisher Steve Forbes, America-firster Pat Buchanan, or former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander. Gramm hurt himself badly in New Hampshire by supporting (failed) attempts by Arizona and Delaware to stage primaries before New Hampshire's.
Still, it's not impossible that Gramm could break through by winning Iowa, or that Alexander could stage a smaller breakthrough by coming in second.
Among the second tier of candidates, Steve Forbes has the most potential, and is the only Republican candidate with an optimistic message (cut taxes, get government out of the way, and let America's full potential blossom). But even if Forbes somehow managed to win in New Hampshire (he's second in the polls there, right now), he doesn't have the organization to slug it out with Dole in all 50 states, and pick up enough delegates to win the nomination?
Who will Dole pick for Vice-President? Colin Powell is a leading contender, despite the risk that he will alienate the Republican right. Also at the top of the list is Michigan Governor John Engler, who could help Dole win an important state that usually goes Democratic.
Other vice-presidential possibilities include California Governor Pete Wilson, Ohio Governor George Voinovich, or Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.
Two hundred and seventy electoral votes are needed to capture the presidency. Rothenberg sees Dole coming away with 289.
How about the Senate? Although no incumbents will be defeated, the Republicans will pick up approximately four votes, as they win open seats formerly held by retiring Democrats. The Senator most at risk of an upset is Montana Democrat Max Baucus.
In the House of Representatives, expect the current wave of retirements (about 20 so far) to continue, so that there will be 40 open seats on election day.
Most vulnerable House Republicans: Steve Stockman (Tex.), Michael Flanagan (Il.), Philip English (Penn.); Fred Heineman (N.C.), Gary Franks (Conn.); Jim Longley (Me.), Tom Colburn (Okla.), Enid Waldhotlz (Ut.), Randy Tate (Wash.), Frank Riggs (Calif.), Andrea Seastand (Calif.); Peter Torkelson (Mass.); Peter Blute (Mass.), and Dick Chrysler (Mich.).
Among the most vulnerable Democrats are: Vic Fazio (Calif.), John Spratt (S.C.), Bud Cramer (Alb.), Earl Pomery (N.D.), Pat Williams (Mont.), Jane Harman (Calif.), George Brown (Calif.), Charlie Rose (N.C.), Tim Holden (Penn.), and Lewis Payne (Vir.)
After all the dust settles, expect a Republican majority in the 105th Congress to be approximately the same size as the one in the current 104th Congress. At best, the Democrats could gain a net of six seats, not enough to win back control.
Campaign finance reform will likely be enacted in 1996. The legislation will probably lower the PAC spending limits, raise the individual contribution limits, and not include total campaign spending limits, or public financing.
As for the nation's governors, only Mike Lowry of Washington is in serious trouble, as a result of a sexual harassment scandal. Governors Jim Hunt of North Carolina and Mel Carnahan of Missouri, both Democrats, face an outside risk of an upset. The Republicans will probably take over the Governorship of Indiana, being vacated by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh.
If you'd like to keep up on politics from an insider's perspective, I highly recommend a subscription to the Rothenberg Political Report. (The Independence Institute doesn't make any money off this, but we do bring Mr. Rothenberg out to Colorado occasionally to brief our members.) A one-year subscription to the bi-weekly newsletter costs $197, and also gives you access to a special hotline for late-breaking political news. You can order the Report from Rothenberg Political Reports, 717 2d St. NE., Washington, D.C. 20002.