Nov. 3-9, 2000
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Sabato: And the next president will be ...
U.S. Senate campaign seen as negative but fair
Wegman shows witty films, photos, drawings and paintings
Documentary revises Disney myth
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Bellah to speak on Protestantism and multiculturalism
Training women for top-level education posts
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Conference explores pros and cons of marriage
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IN THIS ISSUE

Sabato: And the next president will
be ...

By Dan Heuchert

They came from on Grounds and off. Students, faculty, administrators, townfolk, and even elected officials packed Wilson Hall's auditorium Oct. 30.

They came to hear political pundit Larry Sabato, government professor and director of U.Va.'s Center for Governmental Studies, offer his views on the 2000 election a week before the balloting in an event billed as "Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball."

He charmed, he entertained, he made them laugh. Finally, when it came time to call the George W. Bush-Al Gore race for the White House, he declared ...

It's too close to call.

"It really could go either way," he said. "Anyone who says this is over is just dead wrong."

With color-coded state-by-state maps of the U.S. projected on the screen behind him, Sabato said that as of Oct. 30, 243 electoral votes were either solidly in Bush's column or leaning that way, with 207 for Gore and 88 still rated as "toss-ups." A candidate needs 270 votes for election.

Bush and Gore not so different in the politics of character

George W. Bush has been unable to distinguish himself from Al Gore as the more virtuous presidential candidate, despite the history of accusation surrounding Gore and the Clinton administration, a survey from the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture found. The U.Va. institute has been conducting public opinion polls on American political culture, including how important morality and character are in political leadership.

Out of 1,200 telephone calls, 80 percent of those interviewed agreed that Bush is a man of character, as compared to 74 percent saying Gore is a man of character. Bush is considered 6 percent more likely to tell the truth than Gore (45 percent compared to 39 percent). Gore is considered 3 percent more likely to be involved in a scandal, 37 percent to 34 percent. Those percentage points are barely significant, statistically speaking, according to the Center for Survey Research, which conducted the survey for the institute.

When speaking generally of political leadership, people show more mistrust. Almost half agreed that politicians have less moral character than the average American.

Sabato, who has visited 37 states since May, sees the South and much of the West as going solidly for Bush, with a wall of support stretching from Texas northward to North Dakota. Gore, however, has the edge in several populous states, including California, New York and most of New England, plus the upper Midwest states of Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota. The major toss-up states include Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Each candidate has two major factors going for him, Sabato said. Gore benefits from peace and prosperity, while Bush gets a boost from Gore's association with the Clinton scandals and from his more telegenic personality.

"It's close, and things [do] change in the last seven days," Sabato said, noting that the lead has already changed hands several times -- most recently after the debates, which Gore may have won on points, but lost on personality, he said.

He went through a handful of possibilities. A "Bush bump" in the campaign's final week -- an unforeseen factor surfacing that is in Bush's favor -- could give him as many as 370 electoral votes. A "Gore bump," perhaps originating from President Clinton, could give the vice president as many as 333 votes.

"He needs Clinton," Sabato declared. "Clinton can make the case for Gore in three minutes, and Gore can't make that case in three hours. ... It may be too late, but maybe it isn't."

He even went over a "nightmare" scenario -- his personal favorite -- under which there could be a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College, perhaps throwing the election into the House of Representatives. Such a scenario might spawn a reform movement, which Sabato said would be unlikely to succeed because of the extreme process needed to amend the Constitution.

Some of Sabato's other predictions:

Former Gov. George Allen, a Republican, appears to have a narrow edge over Democratic incumbent Charles Robb in Virginia's U.S. Senate race. In order to win, Robb needs substantial support from the African-American community and from Northern Virginia.

It is "very likely" that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate. The House of Representatives is more volatile; if Gore wins, or if the combination of Gore and Ralph Nader votes totals 51 or 52 percent, the House could switch to Democratic dominance; if Bush wins big, the House should remain Republican.

First Lady Hillary Clinton will likely turn back the challenge of Republican Rick Lazio in New York, the highest-profile Senate race in the nation.

Turnout should surpass the 49 percent of the last presidential election in 1996, and could approach 55 percent, most likely falling in the 52 to 53 percent range. Many undecided voters will not vote. "They resolve their conflict by being busy on Election Day," Sabato said.

A Bush victory could result in a Cabinet position for Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, an early and active Bush supporter. "Gilmore wants to be attorney general, and he is on the short list," Sabato said. "We'll see. Bush owes him a lot."

A final pre-election prediction map will be posted Nov. 6 on the Center for Governmental Studies' Web site (http://www.virginia.edu/govstudies/), Sabato said.


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