Gloom and doom 

Both the substance and tone of speeches at the recent Democratic National Convention inspired me. So why am I so blue? I'm blue because polls and personal experience don't give me hope that the country is ready to change leadership in November. The decisive swing voters, though clearly lacking enthusiasm for either the policies or leadership of George W. Bush, seem insufficiently disaffected to throw him out in the middle of a war. An encounter last week with a swinging acquaintance, (her vote has swung from McGovern to the Bushes over the years), was depressingly instructive. She's a middle-aged computer expert. She's not influenced by abortion politics. She's a committed environmentalist. She thinks the war in Iraq is a disaster. She harbors no resentment about taxes. But given a dozen opportunities in a four-hour conversation, she couldn't - wouldn't - tell me that she would vote for John Kerry. He seems to leave her cold. My fear is that such voters will default to the incumbent or simply stay home. I hope I'm wrong. Meanwhile, I hunt for bright spots. One is the battle for U.S. Senate control. You would expect Democrats such as Sen. Blanche Lincoln to express partisan optimism. But when she ticked off potential Democratic pickups in a recent visit with the Times, I couldn't really fault her analysis. Capture of the Senate, the last line of defense against reactionary judges, would be a partial balm for a Bush victory. Then there's this local angle. Have you noticed how aggressively Gov. Mike Huckabee has been campaigning for Bush? (This, you might say, is another Huckabee flip-flop. He never used to be identified as a strong Bushie.) And have you noticed how often Lt. Gov. Win Rockefeller seems to be appearing in public, talking about state issues? Some think these are signs of a campaign for a Huckabee slot in a second Bush administration. Maybe he'd go to the Education Department. Or perhaps he'd become fitness czar. Then Rockefeller would become governor and run as an incumbent in 2006. If a Bush victory cut two years off Huckabee's governorship, it would be a small blessing. He's shown less and less affection for consensus government. Even when he's right, such as on school consolidation, he's ineffective. And when he's wrong, such as when he tries to free killers on the basis of misinformation from preacher pals, he's a threat to public safety. I don't necessarily buy the theory of an administration slot for Huckabee. A $150,000-a-year D.C. job would amount to a pay cut for King Mike, given his Mansion, free planes and cars, servants and his gimmicks for cadging freebies and otherwise living high off taxpayers and rich patrons. If Bush loses, we get the full Huckabee, as scheduled. But Asa Hutchinson would come home, stripped of his job as deputy secretary for homeland insecurity (scared enough yet?). He would run for governor in 2006, of course. That would complicate Rockefeller's plans. All Rockefeller's newfound anti-abortion rhetoric notwithstanding, Hutchinson would thump him in important Benton County. But there's a bright spot should the extremist Hutchinson defeat the more progressive Rockefeller in the Republican primary. The Democratic nominee, Mike Ross or Mike Beebe, would send Hutchinson into political retirement with Bro. Tim.


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