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Analysts Discuss Recent Polls, Reactions to Kerry Remarks

Analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks react to recent polls, prospects for the midterm elections, Sen. John Kerry's botched joke, and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's op-ed on President Bush's handling of Iraq.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

    Mark, does Howard Dean or Ken Mehlman have more reason to be optimistic on Tuesday, about Tuesday?

  • MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist:

    Howard Dean has a lot more reason to be optimistic, Jim. And as I listened to them and Margaret's question to Ken Mehlman about where the president was going this last week, he is concentrating in red states. He's gone…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Red state, meaning Republican states?

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Republican states, Republican. And he's defending districts that were considered overwhelmingly safe. I mean, one district, the 3rd District in Nebraska, where Bill Clinton got 23 percent of the vote in 1992, and the Republicans are fighting tooth and nail to hang onto it.

    But I say that because Howard Dean took a lot of abuse — and still does, from a number of Democratic leaders — for his theory that the Democrats just couldn't try and win the 15 seats in the House, they had to have a 50-state strategy. They had to go out…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    That was Dean's…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    That was Howard Dean's — and he's still taking a lot of criticism for it. But if anything, this election…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And they're contrasting — the people who opposed him within the Democratic Party — said, "No, let's keep on key races"…

  • MARK SHIELDS:

    Everything, all the resources on these 15 or 20 targeted districts and these six Senate seats or whatever, and to heck with the rest of the country. Howard Dean goes, "Look, if you're going to be a national party, you've got to have a national presence." And events up to this point really make him look good and vindicate him.

    The other thing about the race that I think we'll look back upon is, for a year and a half, this race hasn't changed. You go back to the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll of April-May 2005, and the same lack of confidence, the same dissatisfaction with the Republicans, with the president, with Iraq was there. And we've had two changes only since: One was the State of the Union — he got a little bit of a lift from it — and the other was the ceremonies on the anniversary of 9/11. Other than that, it's been a Democratic lead, a Republican rejection, and that's the way it's going into Tuesday.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    David?

  • DAVID BROOKS, Columnist, New York Times:

    I agree with that. That's why Howard Dean isn't vindicated. I mean, one of the lessons in this election is that political strategy didn't particularly matter very much and all the stuff the political scientists talk about is that the Democrats have to win over left-handed church-goers in the far-flung suburbs.

    None of that matters; issues matter. And the issue of Iraq has driven this election. It continues to drive this election, which is why Howard Dean, you know, if you look at the wise heads around here who follow House elections, the predictions range from like 25 to 40 House pickups.

    Now, there has been a more interesting set of movement in the conventional wisdom on the Senate seats, that if you looked at the conventional wisdom around Washington, you'd have to say that the Democrats will do well in Virginia. Jim Webb much more likely to win than he seemed a week or two ago. In Tennessee, the Republicans.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    His opponent being George Allen, incumbent Republican, yes.

  • DAVID BROOKS:

    And in Tennessee, the Republican, Corker, more likely to defeat Harold Ford. And so there's been some movement. And then you've got some just genuine toss-ups, like Missouri.

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