The Beltway Beat - Friday, May 28th

by Brian Wilson for FOX Fan Central

The Melt-Down Factor

The presidential race is tight — tighter than last year's pants...tighter than the skin on Joan River's face...tighter than a tick...tighter than...well, I've got a million of 'em.  All signs point to a knock-down-drag-out fight that will not be determined until the wee hours of November 10th. If then. 

This time around there are so many unknowable factors that it is virtually impossible to make any long-term political predictions. The war, a possible terrorist attack, the roller-coaster stock market — all could have an impact on the outcome.  Then there is what I like to call "The Melt-Down Factor."

You never know when a political candidate might self-destruct or melt down. 

Think back to Howard Dean's scream heard ‘round the world.  Whether it was fair or not, coverage of the scream speech made many Democratic voters nervous about the one-time front-runner. In 15 seconds, Howard Dean became unelectable. 

I must pause here to observe that Al Gore let loose with his own version of the scream speech this past week.  Maybe he was just trying to rally the Democratic faithful, but man oh man, at times he seemed almost demon-possessed — and certainly in need of a haircut (but, I digress.)

Think back to Michael Dukakis in the tank, Gary Hart engaged in monkey business, Joe Biden borrowing a quote without proper attribution.  I could go on, but you get the idea.

It can happen in a flash. Ask Trent Lott and he'll tell you.   One misstep, one bungled statement, one momentary lapse in concentration or judgment — and it's all over.  Many years ago CBS's Dan Rather wrote a book titled, “The Camera Never Blinks.”  With the advent of 24-hour news channels, that is even more true now than it was then.  If a candidate screws up, it will almost certainly be captured live and replayed endlessly.


After just telling you how difficult it is to make political predictions, let me go on record with one.  The House and Senate will likely remain under Republican control in 2005.  No serious political analyst believes that Democrats will be able to regain the House. It would take an unforeseen perfect political storm for Democrats to prevail in enough races to make Nancy Pelosi Speaker of the House. It's a tougher call in the Senate, but more Democrats than Republicans are facing re-election. In other words, more Democrats have seats at risk. 

Here's another prediction: I'll have a very watchable rock-em, sock-em show on Sunday. I hope you'll join me for "Weekend Live" (Noon to 2pm ET / 9am to 11am PT).