VIEWS FROM THE FIELD
NOVEMBER 5, 1996
To the surprise of few, President Clinton has won a second term, but congressional races are still in doubt. Jim Lehrer talks about the election with Mike Barnacle of the Boston Globe and Patrick McGuigan of the Daily Oklahoman.
JIM LEHRER: We want to go to two of our regional commentators who are standing by now, Patrick McGuigan of the Daily Oklahoman, who's in Oklahoma City--his state went for Bob Dole tonight--and to Mike Barnicle of the Boston Globe, who is in Boston--his state Massachusetts went for Bill Clinton.
A RealAudio version of this NewsHour segment is available.
No surprise there, I guess, in Massachusetts, Mike?
MIKE BARNICLE, Boston Globe: No one was shocked, Jim.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. And then nobody was shocked in Oklahoma about Dole in your state either, were they, Pat?
PATRICK McGUIGAN, Daily Oklahoman: No. I don't think there's shock. It is interesting that Dole's quite a bit stronger here than George Bush was. In fact, Dole is flirting with half the popular vote. He's getting right around 49-50 percent. But he actually ran a stronger race here than President Bush did four years ago.
JIM LEHRER: Are you Oklahomans feeling a little lonely thus far tonight?
MR. McGUIGAN: Well, not really. I mean, one of the things I'm kind of frustrated about is I'd like to get some numbers scrolling on the popular vote so that people in the West could get the full picture because Dole is coming in with about 44 percent, which is higher than I think any pre-election poll showed him with, with the possible exception of Reuters. Right now, it's 47-44 in the popular vote, and I have to believe that despite the AP projections, some of those western states could be close. And we might have a pretty interesting election by the time this is over.
JIM LEHRER: In other words, you don't buy this declaration that Bill Clinton has been reelected President of the United States?
MR. McGUIGAN: Well, it's not that I don't buy it. It's that there's 30 minutes to go before the polls close in a lot of the western states. For 10 years I edited a newsletter on direct democracy, and I saw in that 10 years about six races get called wrong early. Now, admittedly, the United States is different than one individual state.
JIM LEHRER: Sure.
MR. McGUIGAN: Nonetheless, I think the call has been made a little early here.
JIM LEHRER: I see. What do you--how do you feel about it, Mike?
MR. BARNICLE: Well, you know, I think we tend to over-analyze these things, especially on nights like tonight, but the idea that we're looking for the popular vote when the President has clearly been re-elected, you know, because someone's going to say, well, you know he only won with 49 percent of the vote so he's going to be less of a President during the next four years than if he had won with 56 percent of the vote, you know, is kind of absurd. And I think also the idea that people--I'm sure there are people who live west of Chicago who will stay at home and watch a ball game or have a beer and not go out because Clinton has been declared the winner by the networks and by us. But there are a lot of people who are very interested in local races, I'm sure, in Colorado, in Oregon, in California, and it's not going to mean much to them. They're going to go out and vote regardless of who's been declared the winner.
JIM LEHRER: What's your explanation, Mike, for Bill Clinton's being re-elected?
MR. BARNICLE: Well, again, in keeping with the fact that I think we over-analyze things, I think it was much simpler than--than we tend to make it out to be. I think you had an older man who filled out a job application--the job currently being held by a younger man. And he put his name down on the top of the paper--Bob Dole. And he didn't put down much of anything else. He never gave people a reason to vote for him. And I think there were a lot of people out there who may have listened to a legitimate reason not to retain the younger employee that we hired four years ago, but in the end, the simplest choice for many people, I think, came down to, well, we know what values this young man has carried through the last four or five years, we're all familiar with it, but things seem to be going okay, I'm putting an addition on my home, the new family room is going to be ready in December, I'm buying the second car, there's no Depression, there's no war overseas, let's keep him, because the other guy never really gave us the reason why he wanted to take this young man's job.
JIM LEHRER: Pat McGuigan, what would you add or subtract to that analysis?
MR. McGUIGAN: I don't really disagree with Mike. I think that what you've got in Oklahoma is a--a cultural conservatism that may be giving Dole a boost that President Bush didn't necessarily have in the election four years ago. Here we have a number of Republican congressmen either being re-elected, or it looks like in the third district, Wes Watkins might be elected, running on clear messages about these cultural concerns people have.
This is despite the fact that the Oklahoma economy is not doing that well. I think you combine that with the cultural message, and you get a boost for the Republican side. The Republicans, I think, dropped the ball in subsuming or pressing down some of these cultural issues that have been a way of appealing to ethnic Democrats in the Northeast and traditional Democratic voters in the South and the West, and that might be part of the explanation for the apparent outcome in the electoral college. But once again, this is about a three point election in the popular vote at this point.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah, well, Pat, just quickly, you mentioned the congressional races. No surprises there in Oklahoma right, they went just about exactly the way they were supposed to go, or at least the polls had itů
MR. McGUIGAN: Yeah, I'd say that's right. It is interesting--it looks like in the two most heavily contested races the second district, Tom Koburn, who was a big target of the labor standing, is going to be re-elected handily, and in the third district, an open seat, it looks like Watkins will take it for the Republicans.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Now, Mike, the big one in your state, of course, was the Senate race between John Kerry, the Democratic incumbent, being challenged by the Republican governor, Bill Weld, and Kerry's been declared the winner, right?
MR. BARNICLE: Big winner, probably by seven or eight points when it's done, and it was an interesting race, Jim, because in the final analysis, it came down to the governor, very popular who concentrated on three issues--crime, taxes, and welfare--fairly punitive issues, issues that you can be quite successful with when running for governor--but people wanted to hear more from a United States Senate candidate. They wanted to hear about what's going to happen to their child in fifth grade, what's going to happen to the day care class, what's going to happen to their town police departments and federal funding and things like that. Weld never made that leap into the "smiley-faced" issues--here's what I'm going to do for you--and there's only 13 percent of the electorate in this state are registered Republicans--the rest are independents and Democrats. John Kerry did phenomenally well with women here. There was a huge gender gap. Weld did better with men, which, you know, women paid more attention to the issues that mattered in the kitchen and the home and in the school.
JIM LEHRER: Yeah. Okay. Well, Mike and Pat, thank you both very much for being with us tonight.