Today's Papers

Winner Takes 0?

On the Sunday before election time, the New York Times leads with a new poll taken on national political sentiment. The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times both look at the prospects for Tuesday’s election.

While some would suggest that the NYT buried their lede in the sixth paragraph in their article on the latest NYT/CBS News poll, the CBS News team might argue that the poll’s most interesting figure is buried in the NYT’s 25th paragraph. Half of voters say they are casting their votes in this year’s local elections for or against Bush (31 percent for, 19 percent against), which CBS points out is a referendum number far greater than polls taken in 1990 and 1998, when voters at 34 and 37 percent, respectively, said their votes would be for or against then-presidents Bush (the elder) and Clinton. As for the poll figure the NYT actually leads with—more than twice as many Republicans as Democrats (63 to 27 percent) say the country is heading in the right direction—the paper spins that finding six paragraphs down to predict that “concern among Democrats about the nation’s direction and the economy suggests that Democratic voters might be more motivated to cast their ballots on Tuesday and respond to the ambitious get-out-the-vote drives that have been organized by the Democratic Party.” 

The WP, on the other hand, tries to parse what’s going to happen on Tuesday, rotisserie baseball style, handicapping the odds for a Republican capture of the House or a Democratic capture of the Senate by looking at the field state-by-state. Though the piece is headlined, “DEMOCRATIC HOUSE IS LESS LIKELY THAN GOP SENATE,” the WP slugs the life out of its hed: “Parties seem to be headed for status quo in Congress.” Should this turn out to be true, President Bush will have at very least, as White House political director Ken Mehlman points out, the “best off-year election in 40 years,” but Democrats may have reason on Wednesday to pop champagne bottles, too. The WP says that Democrats are set to regain the majority in governorships for the first time since 1994.

The LAT points out that it could be weeks before anyone knows who controls the Senate. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., holds a big lead over three Republican challengers, but because of Louisiana’s “unusual” election system, if she doesn’t get 50 percent on Tuesday, a run-off will be held on Dec. 7. This could set off an “unprecedented month-long siege between the parties.”

In its off-lede, the LAT focuses on the California governorship battle, which many forecast as a win for less-than-popular incumbent Gray Davis. The paper says that many analysts expect the lowest turnout in modern California history, amid deep dissatisfaction with either candidate. “Whoever wins the governorship,” the nutgraph reads, “he will have little in the way of a mandate, given a campaign focused more on tactics and innuendo than anything either man hopes to accomplish in office.”

The NYT’s lead op-ed makes a similar point about Tuesday’s election ad hoc: “With both parties saying the same thing, it isn’t surprising that the public is divided pretty much 50-50, as the Senate races show. And no matter who wins, nobody will be able to claim a real mandate, although we can be sure that someone will try.”

The NYT fronts a story written by a reporter filing from “ABOARD U.S.S. ABRAHAM LINCOLN in the Persian Gulf.” The presence of a Times reporter there perhaps speaks more to the U.S.’s state of readiness to attack Iraq than the story’s main premise.  The Navy warplanes leaving the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, says the NYT, have an “official mission” to patrol the no-flight zone in Southern Iraq, but in fact, their “unadvertised task” is to practice bombing runs against Iraqi targets. Since the NYT doubtless had to receive permission or an invitation to be onboard the ship, and since the senior military personal quoted in the story most assuredly had to receive permission from superiors to talk to the NYT about strategy, it’s hard to see how the paper can call these practice bombing runs over Iraq as “unadvertised.”

The NYT also gets to deliver a message from North Korea to the White House: North Korea tells the paper, in an interview and subsequent e-mail exchanges, that “everything will be negotiable,” including the dismantling of its uranium-enrichment program and international inspections of its uranium facilities. So far, the Bush administration’s stated policies, as highlighted by a talk that Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton gave on Friday, is to rule out conversation. North Korean Ambassador Han Song Ryol says “the interpretation [in North Korea] is that the U.S. is preparing for a war,” and that dialogue must be continued. Interestingly, the conversation between the NYT and North Korea commenced when the North Korea Mission at the U.N. contacted the paper via a New Jersey restaurateur.

The WP fronts news that the Army is considering privatizing 214,000 jobs, or nearly 17 percent of its workforce. Army Secretary Thomas E. White argues in an internal memo that the move would save costs, but critics see it as a way to benefit defense contractors and political contributors.

The NYT covers New York’s win over San Francisco in the race to become the United States Olympic Committee’s designated city for the 2012 Summer Games. The paper says that the Olympic Committee was impressed by New York’s “forceful, funny and highly detailed presentation.” New York got 59.2 percent of the vote.

The WP briefly chronicles what could be the strangest sporting match ever. In a soccer game played on Thursday in Madagascar, the coach of a club team there argued with a referee over what he felt was bad officiating. Not getting what he wanted, evidently, the coach instructed the team to score “own goals,” the type of goals where players, usually mistakenly, put the goal in their own net. By the time the 90 minutes were up, the Madagascan team had put 149 of these in their own net. They scored nothing on the opposing team’s.