Magazine article Insight on the News

Pundits' Crystal Ball: No One Can Win in '96

Magazine article Insight on the News

Pundits' Crystal Ball: No One Can Win in '96

Article excerpt

Thanks to the wisdom of the pundits, one can know the outcome of the 1996 presidential election 10 months early. A preliminary hint: Voters are wasting their time.

As the candidates kick off three solid months of primary campaigns - very-early primaries, earlier-than-thou primaries and who's-on-first party caucuses preceded by highly consequential and rigged party straw votes - followed by five months of history's most extensive final election orgy culminating in November, one might wonder how it all is going to come out.

Here at Punditry Central, the task is to examine the predictions, polling and pandering of the nation's most prescient and puissant pundits. And the winner of the 1996 presidential election will be ... nobody. And by a landslide.

There is, however, still an outside hope that Homer P. Hickenlooper, about whom little has been heard heretofore, will be elected in a surprise squeaker - engineered by us pundits.

Careful analysis shows, first, that Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republican front-stumbler, cannot possibly win. The reason is that Dole is too busy serving as a word (usually a verb or adjective) to campaign seriously. The word Dole has three definitions:

1. "To Dole" - to employ one's famous bitter wit in a way that simultaneously skewers an opponent and oneself (as in, "Boy, I sure Doled him! Oops! I Doled myself, too! "). This political knack has been hidden recently, usually behind the handy nearby facade of House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

2. "To Dole out" - to assist influential Kansas constituents with their Washington errands (as in, "While you're in town, can I Dole out a crop subsidy or something for you?").

3. "Doleful" - a recent reincarnation, wherein soporific calls to duty replace sarcasm and log-rolling, perversely causing opinion polls to sink under prospects of balanced budgets as far as the eye can see.

So ol' Bob Dole, 73, is finished, never to be heard from again, except maybe from the inaugural stand in January 1997.

Not much more can be said for Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, the candidate whose style is premised on the belief that people so loved listening to Jimmy Cahtuh's Southern accent for four years and are so enamored of President Clinton's Arkansas argot that they pine now for a Texas drawl that is mushier than either's. Gramm bases his substantive appeal on making Dole look feeble in his budget-slashing, constantly raising the goal on any cutback the majority leader proposes. Cheering this on is an ardent claque, mostly from Dixie, known as Gramm crackers. Unfortunately, voters aren't buying this bland cookie. Pundits know that Gramm could not even get elected senator. (What? He already did?)

Pat Buchanan, of course, is finished before he really begins. It is safe to say that his 1996 campaign peaked (or piqued) at the Republican Convention of 1992.

Lamar Alexander is the world's first stuffed logging shirt. He doesn't have a prayer either, if you will pardon an allusion to a perennial campaign issue. However, he is beginning to gain ground in New Hampshire now that cold weather has set in and he no longer looks like such a dweeb walking up and down highways in the same flannel getup day after day. The former Tennessee governor, University of Tennessee president and secretary of education is running - er, walking - as the consummate outsider. This is just not selling, for some reason. His only chance now is a big victory in Oregon, where he is backed heavily by the Pendleton Shirt Co. …

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