Strong Economy Overshadows Clinton Scandal

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Thompson Daily Herald State Government Writer

SPRINGFIELD - "It's the economy, stupid."

Six years after that campaign war-room motto helped Bill Clinton win the presidency, despite Whitewatergate and Zippergate and now Clinton's new admission of infidelity, observers said it still likely holds true for other candidates in the upcoming fall election.

"If the economy were bad, if people were out of work, I could see this having an impact. But people are pretty happy with the way things are going," said Mike Daly, chief of staff to Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin.

Both parties' incumbents should generally do well under these circumstances. And there is danger for Republicans in making too much of Clinton's woes, particularly if the party's bomb-throwers are perceived by the public as going too far too fast, said members of both parties.

"I don't think the average person sits there and thinks (Clinton's behavior) is indicative of Democratic politicians," said Joe Novak, political director for Democratic congressman and governor nominee Glenn Poshard.

Novak echoed similar reasoning by Republican U.S. Rep. Phil Crane of Wauconda.

"I think it's pretty isolated to him," agreed Eric Adelstein, media adviser to Democratic U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun. "I don't think it's an issue that trickles down to other Democrats."

"So far, all we (as Republican Party leaders) are doing is concentrating on a campaign the same way we did before," said Patrick Durante, central committeeman for the 6th Congressional District and executive assistant to U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde of Wood Dale. "No one - no one - has said, 'How do we best utilize it to our advantage.' And if someone did, I'd be the first to pooh-pooh it, because until we see what's in (independent counsel Kenneth) Starr's report, it's just too premature."

"If it's just sex, then the American public seems more tolerant of that today," agreed veteran Republican political consultant Don Totten, the former Schaumburg Township GOP committeeman. "If it's perjury, serious perjury, then I think the Republicans have to go on the attack."

At a minimum, the scandal makes it difficult for Clinton to campaign for Democratic office-seekers, Totten said. Plus, other top Democrats who denied impropriety on Clinton's behalf are now tainted and disillusioned by his admission that he lied. And if he lied about the sex, Totten thinks people will wonder if Clinton also lied about obstructing justice.

"I think strategically it gives the Democratic Party problems," Totten said. "I'm sure he will be hounded, so the issue just doesn't die. …