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October 5, 2006

Five Weeks Left - Stay Informed and Vote

George Wenschhof

Five weeks to go until voters express their wishes in this mid-term election. Is anybody listening to what the candidates are saying? Does anybody care?

Many voters feel it doesn't matter who is in office, the same old, same old occurs. They feel their vote doesn't really make a difference. Maybe this explains why only 60% of the registered voters are likely to cast ballots November 7.

Political operatives will tell you that they generally plan to get the attention of these voters with direct mail, TV, radio, and auto-dial messages beginning after Labor Day and intensifying the third week in October. This is because they feel no one other than political junkies is paying attention until then.

Some candidates, however, have been campaigning for over a year and have worked hard to establish their message with the voters. Soon they will find out if their message has been well received. Here is where incumbency can be a huge advantage for these candidates are in the news constantly and can mail updates to their constituency, keeping their name in front of the voter.

If a candidate discovers that he/she is behind in the polls at this point he/she is generally advised to "go negative." Political advisors believe that this approach catches the attention of the voter and is the best way to change voter opinion late in the race.

Take a look at the U.S. Senate race in Virginia where incumbent Republican Sen. George Allen had a significant lead against his Democratic challenger James Webb. After a series of allegations regarding Senator Allen's use of racial slurs, this race is now a dead heat. However, this has been known to backfire as was the case in the 2002 Sue Hecht v. Alex Mooney state Senate race.

Look to see a series of mailers from the candidates for the State House over the last three weeks of this campaign. This has become standard operating procedure from any candidate who has the money to do so. Many Annapolis political operatives believe the repetition captures the voter's attention and advise their candidates to take this approach.

Nationwide voters will be determining the composition of the full House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate. Currently the Republicans have a majority in both houses. The Democrats need to pick up 16 seats in the House and six seats in the Senate to capture a majority. There are also 36 races for governor. Here, the Republicans hold the advantage 28 to 22.

So, the super-trifecta goes to the Republicans as they currently have a majority in the House, Senate, governors, and their politician is in the White House.

Democrats are hoping for enough gains in November to take back the House. Some say possibly the Senate as well as some gains in the governors across the country. The Republicans, however, are saying stay the course.

President Bush and his advisors have effectively used the belief that their administration will keep you and your families safe. Since the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the president's approval ratings across the country have increased from a low of 32%.

Presidential aspirants for 2008 from both sides of the aisle also are eyeing these mid-term elections closely. They will be looking to see if any trends will become apparent when the polls close November 7. Until the results are known, these Oval Office hopefuls will keep their mouths shut for the most part for fear of having a foot inserted in it should the results be different than they project.

Nationally, the Democrats continue to have problems developing a message as to what they are for; and prominent Democrats continue to create political organizations that reflect what they believe the Democrat's view should be. Will Rogers was reported to have said "I am not a member of any organized party, I am a Democrat." That statement continues to be true today for Democrats.

The Abramoff scandal has been exploited to the max by Democrats, but it does not appear to be having any affect on the voters, likely because voters feel the current campaign finance practices are exploited by all political parties. Until we have true reform here, with perhaps equal media time provided to all political candidates, voters will have a skeptical view of campaign financing and elections.

The war in Iraq continues to be a major issue with the voters who see no end in sight and a war without obtainable objectives. The current administration has done a very good job of promoting the idea that they are keeping Americans and their children safe, despite the fact that recent reports from a declassified CIA report show that the war is fostering an increase in terrorist activity.

The president also more or less received a vote of confidence with the latest action in Congress relating to detention and subsequent treatment of prisoners of war. Unprecedented wiretapping of American citizens will also continue with the justification that it is necessary to combat the war on terrorism.

Locally, Barry Kissin an anti-war Democratic candidate for Congress, who many perceived as a long shot in the 6th District, received 41% of the Democrat vote in the primary. His strong showing came in what is arguably a moderate-Democrat region. Does this show a change in the voter mindset; or does it reflect that the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party came out in force and expressed their views in the primary?

Now Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial" is out and it also contains additional damaging information as to the inner workings of the White House and the Bush administration. In particular, the book details the misinformation the White House put out in regard to the progress being made in Iraq. Is it interesting that this book release occurred five weeks prior to the election.

Democrats and Republicans will wage a hard fought battle over the next five weeks for control of Congress and the voters will make the final determination on November 7. It is unfortunate for the voters that in many cases politics has become a case of 'I got you" on the part of both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Over these last five weeks you will be deluged with information from candidates representing all levels of government. Don't be swayed by sensational allegations or by a candidate who only tells you why not to vote for their opponent without telling you why you should vote for them.

Voters in this election have the opportunity to determine who represents all of us. Take the time to sort through all the information you receive between now and November 7. Also check out candidate web sites for further information on their positions on issues important to you; read whatever voter guides are available and try to attend candidate forums.

Your vote does make a difference.

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