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Farewell to the swing voter

By KAREN TUMULTY; MATTHEW COOPER


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What we learned in this year's elections

The results of last week's off-year elections gave both parties something to cheer about. Republicans accelerated their conquest of the nation's governorships, particularly in the South, with victories by Representative Ernie Fletcher in Kentucky and Haley Barbour in Mississippi.

The Democrats gained control of the New Jersey legislature and saw John Street win re-election as mayor of Philadelphia. Together, the results sketched in sharp relief the emerging political landscape.

The country remains closely divided between the two parties, with partisanship more pronounced, and the South, in particular, becoming hostile terrain for Democrats.

"This is a very different political climate than it was even a year ago," says Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which released a study showing the country more polarized than it has been since 1994, when angry voters put the Republicans in control of Congress.

This hardening of attitudes also helps explain why the swing voter, so sought after during the 1990s, is getting less attention. The name of the game for both parties is getting their core voters to the polls.

Turnout increases last week were especially dramatic in areas President Bush visited in his campaign sweep the weekend before the election. In heavily Republican Laurel County, Ky., for instance, turnout rose 252% from the 1999 gubernatorial election.

Yet for the next big race in the South, Bush may be a no-show. He is not scheduled to campaign in Louisiana this week for Bobby Jindal, an Indian-American Republican whose Nov. 15 race for Governor is too close to call.

The fear, says a White House adviser, is that Bush would galvanize "hard-core Dems" in the only Southern state that hasn't sent a Republican to the Senate since Reconstruction.



Copyright © 2003 Time Inc.

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