Three months ago, Democratic leaders, buoyed by a humming economy and a popular President, envisioned recapturing the House of Representatives with a swing of 11 seats in the November 3 midterm election.

While pre-election polls show Americans continue to approve of the way President Clinton is handling his job—especially the economy—the release last month of independent counsel Kenneth Starr's report to Congress outlining 11 reasons for impeachment based on the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal has acutely deflated Democratic hopes of gaining in Congress.

Indeed, pollsters are predicting disillusioned voters will stay away in droves. But Alan Secrest, president of Cooper and Secrest, one of the nation's largest Democratic polling firms, says, "The angrier voters are, the more likely they are to turn out." He predicts those few who do end up at the polls will be voting with raw emotions.

John C. Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, estimates that less than a third of the electorate will vote, making it one of the lowest turnouts ever. Conservative Christians, who tend overwhelmingly to vote Republican, could tip the balance in tight races, resulting in a considerable gain for the GOP in Congress. While polls indicate moral issues are suddenly a priority for the electorate, Republicans run the risk of overplaying their hand and causing a voter backlash.

As the Clinton scandal has unfolded, the organizations that form the backbone of the Religious Right are in flux. The Christian Coalition has retooled since wunderkind Ralph Reed left to become a political consultant last year. Focus on the Family's James Dobson, after clashing with top Republicans earlier this year, suffered ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Tags:
Issue: