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Pundit Predicts Election Atmosphere

by Deborah D. McAdams~ April 25, 2006


Unrest equals change, according to Stu Rothenberg, the Washington-based political pundit who spoke at the Politics and Policy Breakfast Monday morning. The publisher of The Rothenberg Political Report told NAB members the current political structure is in play.

"The mood on Capitol Hill and around the country is foul," he said. "The mood favors change."

The President's job approval rating is poor, but that of Congress is even worse, he said.

"That's a problem for incumbents," he said. "The Democrats are poised to make major gains in the House."

Rothenberg said he was neither advocating nor tossing brickbats at any particular political persuasion, just telling NAB members "whether or not to carry an umbrella."

Broadcasters have several items hanging in the balance on Capitol Hill, including expected legislation from Reps. Nathan Deal, R-Ga., and Charles Bass, R-N.H., calling for retransmission reform. During the breakfast, NAB Joint Board Chairman Bruce Reese told members the House Commerce Committee would take up the issue Wednesday, and to contact their home-state Congress members immediately to urge a "no" vote.

Other broadcast issues targeted for legislation include the broadcast flag, unlicensed devices in white spaces and indecency. Rothenberg said the midterm and 2008 elections could very well influence how those issues are treated.

For example, if the Democrats win the House in this year's midterm elections, Reps. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., Henry Waxman, D-Calif., Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Barney Frank, D-Mass., will likely become committee chairmen.

"That the Democrats don't have a detailed agenda is not important," Rothenberg said.

They are positioned to pick up 8 to 12 seats in the House. In the Senate, they only need six to get to 51.

"There are Republicans in big trouble," he said, naming four: Sens. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Rick Santorum, R-Penn., Mike DeWine, R-Ohio and Jim Talent, R-Mo.

"It's the mood," he said. "Even in Republican leaning states, it's the mood."

Even if Democrats don't take over the House and Senate, they're going to make significant gains. If they do take over, Rothenberg said there would be investigations, censure votes and all manner of remonstration.

"Washington is radioactive now," Rothenberg said.

As for the 2008 presidential election, it's a four- or five-person race that's bound to include Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., he said.

"There'll be Hillary, and a fight to be the un-Hillary," he said.

Consider it similar to an NCAA basketball bracket, he said, with an assured berth for Clinton and Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., Evan Bayh, D-Ind., former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, former Virginia Governor Mark Warner and a handful of others.

"Hillary has $19 million in the bank right now. She'll have many more millions," Rothenberg said. Warner has a personal fortune of more than $200 million.

On the Republican side of 2008, he told broadcasters that one of their leading opponents could emerge as the candidate.

"The election is setting up perfectly for the guy you find a little scary ... John McCain," the Republican senator from Arizona. Rothenberg described McCain as independent-minded, but shrewd in his party loyalty.

"He's schmoozed successfully with his party ... and he looks like he's doing the right thing," he said. "Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts, and Sen. George Allen, R-Va., are his main competitors."

Rothenberg said that none of his prognostications were in stone, but he said it was very unlikely for the Republicans to turn around public opinion before the upcoming midterms.

© 2006 NAB