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Washington Insight

September 26, 1996|From The Times Washington Bureau

REVERSE COATTAILS: Republicans fearful that Bob Dole's low standing in the polls will hold down election day turnout of GOP voters, hurting the party's candidates across the board, can stop worrying about that--and start brooding about another possible consequence. Studies of two past landslide presidential elections show that in 1964, Republicans who expected Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson to win were more likely to turn out than those who were counting on a victory for their standard-bearer, Barry Goldwater. Similarly in 1984, Democrats who anticipated that Republican incumbent Ronald Reagan would be reelected turned out at a higher rate than those who thought Democrat Walter F. Mondale would win. In each election, the winner enjoyed a high crossover from voters registered with the opposing party. The danger for Republicans this year, says UCLA political scientist John Petrocik, is not that dissatisfaction with Dole will discourage Republicans from voting--but rather that they will vote--and a larger than normal share will cast their ballots for Clinton and probably for Democratic candidates for other offices.

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BACON AS USUAL: Republicans made progress last year in curbing Congress' habit of loading up appropriations bills with home-state pork projects, but their appetites clearly increased this election year. Freshman Rep. Mark W. Neumann (R-Wis.) says the domestic spending bill Congress just sent to the White House has 99 pork-barrel projects. His favorites include: $100,000 to expand the videoconferencing capabilities of a homeless shelter in Alaska; $100,000 for a study of oysters in the Chesapeake Bay; and $400,000 for an "algae bloom project" in Maui, Hawaii. As Citizens Against Government Waste, a nonprofit group, said in a recent report: "Congress has apparently reverted to age-old Washington tactics of trying to buy election year votes with slabs of legislative bacon."

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QUENCHING FEARS: President Clinton's campaign stop Wednesday at Robert Morris College outside Pittsburgh, Pa., set a new standard for security, and thirst. Campus security guards closed off restrooms and, for good measure, explained to those foolish enough to put money in the soft drink machines that no beverages were being dispensed because the internal mechanisms had been disabled. Doing so, they imagined, would prevent someone from hiding a bomb inside.

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OUT OF CHARACTER: The Oct. 9 debate between Vice President Al Gore and Republican nominee Jack Kemp is being touted as a possible preview of the presidential race in 2000. With the stakes this high, preparations are intense. Former New York Rep. Tom Downey, a longtime Gore confidant, is playing Kemp as the vice president's verbal sparring partner in mock debates. But Downey apparently needs to bone up more on his character. Asked to describe his experience in playing the always talkative Kemp, Downey declined comment.

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COULD BE A LONG FLIGHT: From the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC national presidential poll: "Suppose you were on a plane and the two seats next to you were empty, which couple would you most prefer sitting next to you?" The Clintons and Doles led the way, at 35% and 23%, respectively. The veep candidates were next. And last? The Perots, at 7%.

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