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Washington Insight

November 10, 1994|From the Times Washington Bureau

WHO KNEW?--The magnitude of the Republican sweep Tuesday took a lot of people by surprise. Were pre-election polls wrong? Actually, no. But media reporting about the results did pull punches. Most polls found that Republicans were poised to take a majority of the congressional vote for the first time since the Dwight D. Eisenhower Administration--and stories on those polls generally noted that such a finding could well point to a GOP majority in Congress. The final Los Angeles Times Poll, for example, indicated that the GOP was ahead on the total congressional vote by a 5-point margin--about a point higher than the actual vote Tuesday. But journalists, haunted by memories of the famous Chicago Tribune headline, "Dewey Defeats Truman," hedged their predictions. "You're always reluctant to predict something you've never seen happen," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Times Mirror Center for People and the Press. "And none of us have ever seen this happen."

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BAILING OUT--While Washington reeled from the Republican sweep, at least one ousted Democrat was seeing fairly clearly Wednesday. Oklahoma Rep. Mike Synar, who has had seven weeks to adjust his thinking since losing in a Democratic primary, says he believes a lot of Democratic lions in the House will retire rather than be members of that congressional lesser class--the minority party. That will open still more seats to possible Republican gains. Synar also suggested that a number of old-line Republicans will be less than blissful under what is expected to be a tightly disciplined operation run by new House leaders Newt Gingrich of Georgia and Dick Armey of Texas. Stay tuned.

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CONVENTION DILEMMA--With their midterm election victory under their belts, Republicans are looking forward to nominating their next presidential standard-bearer in two years--and San Diego appears to have strong support as the convention site. But insiders said that it's not a done deal. Party officials think San Diego would be an aesthetically stunning setting and they are high on the symbolism of meeting in the state with the most electoral votes. But some worry that the Convention Center is not large enough for all the delegates and press and question whether the city has enough hotel rooms nearby. If these problems prove insurmountable, the GOP probably will stage the August, 1996, convention in New Orleans, with its spacious Superdome, abundant hotels and memories of the 1988 convention that anointed the winning ticket of George Bush and Dan Quayle.

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INDEPENDENT DECLARATION?--Growing public alienation from the Democratic and Republican parties, combined with the showing by Texas billionaire Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential race, may give rise to third-party candidacies in 1996. Among the possible candidates is Lowell P. Weicker Jr., a former Republican senator who was elected Connecticut governor four years ago as the head of a third party. Weicker is beginning to put together an independent bid, according to a Connecticut politico who has spoken to Weicker. Although Weicker has said that he looks forward to life as a private citizen, he predicted recently that a building momentum will lead to "a true centrist third party."

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GERONIMO!--The first thing one dispirited White House aide did Wednesday morning after surveying the Democratic electoral rubble was to change the screen saver on the personal computer on her desk. Where Opus the cartoon penguin once romped, a man bungee-jumped through the bottom of the screen.

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