Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Perot Has Left His Brand on US Politics

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Perot Has Left His Brand on US Politics

Article excerpt

THIS seemingly never-ending, historically strange, and particularly contentious presidential campaign - as most of the voters appear to view it - is mercifully almost over. For the candidates, too, it had to have been an ordeal - their smiles and cheery comments to the contrary.

But while the final evaluation of who won and who lost must wait for the counting of votes, it is possible to single out one clear political achievement:

The man who looks more than a bit like Truman and sounds like Truman has reminded us of Truman by pulling off his own surprising comeback. That's Ross Perot, the feisty little Texan who in the last few weeks has made a major impact on the presidential race after dropping out back at convention time.

True, Mr. Perot soured this comeback with his unsubstantiated charges that Republican operatives had planned a smear campaign against his daughter. Yet just how well this outspoken and often irascible fellow would do remained the big imponderable in the election - it turned "the end game of this campaign," as New York Times reporter Robin Toner aptly put it, "into a very delicate affair."

In that same paper, an op-ed by David W. Moore, author of "The Superpollsters: How They Measure and Manipulate Public Opinion in America," charged pollsters with being unreliable because of "our way of measuring the firmness of voters' intent."

"We do not offer the option of `Unsure,' " he wrote, "and if voters indicate indecision, we press them for the candidate they lean to." In his view, this leads to polling results that are off the mark because they fail to register the degree of softness in attitudes of voters who may be persuaded later on to vote differently.

I'm persuaded by Mr. Moore's argument in great part because of my experience in past presidential years, going back to the '50s. I have always received a number of impassioned letters from readers complaining about something I've written concerning their favorite candidates. Yet this year I'm escaping this letter-bashing. It seems to me that this is just another sign that the allegiance of most voters simply isn't very strong this year. …

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