Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Incumbents Learn about Challengers' Advantage

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Incumbents Learn about Challengers' Advantage

Article excerpt

THE yearning for change is so strong among American voters that it pulls 20 to 30 percentage points from the support of any incumbent running for Congress, reports Monitor staff writer Marshall Ingwerson.

Those numbers come from Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R) of Michigan, who cites new private polls taken for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which he chairs. The drag of incumbency is not so heavy for President Bush, he adds, because people are more familiar with his personal record than they are with House of Representatives members.

Traditionally, incumbents had a starting-line advantage with voters. Now, voters say they prefer a generic new person over an incumbent, 55 percent to 35 percent. The desire for change is "blind, irrational, unreasoning, vicious," Mr. Vander Jagt says.

He should know. He was defeated in a primary race this year. The newspaper vote

Newspapers don't vote. But every four years, a lot of them do endorse presidential candidates. This year, many publications are breaking from a traditional pattern of endorsing the Republican ticket.

The Oregonian in Portland, Ore., for example, endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 142 years. The newspaper said President Bush has been "a massive disappointment as president," while Gov. Bill Clinton had been "pragmatic, tough, focused, controversial - and effective" as governor of Arkansas. Other Clinton endorsements have come from the Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, New York Newsday, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and Alaska's Anchorage Daily News.

Bush has gotten his share of endorsements - though fewer than he got four years ago. The Chicago Tribune, Denver's Rocky Mountain News, the Daily Oklahoman of Oklahoma City, the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, and the New Haven (Conn.) Register all backed the president. Said the Tribune: "Fortunately George Bush has shown he can handle the job. He has not been a perfect president but he has been a very good one. …

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