Video: Matthews talks politics

By Chris Matthews Host of 'Hardball'
updated 9/13/2006 5:43:30 PM ET 2006-09-13T21:43:30

Tuesday’s primaries contain some fascinating prospects for Nov. 7.   As in the August defeat of Joe Lieberman, they are pronouncedly anti-war and anti-Bush.

Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee wrote in the name of President Bush’s father in the 2004 election.  His victory cannot be read as a “vote of confidence” for George W.

Randy Graf’s victory in the Jim Kolbe congressional seat in Arizona is a sharp rebuff to the President’s immigration policy. 

The upset by Shea-Porter in that New Hampshire congressional race shows the strength of the anti-war mood in the Democratic party.  It’s a hard rejection of the party leaders’ play-it-safe strategy. 

So Tuesday’s votes fit the pattern of what we’ve been hearing, seeing and prognosticating.  What I’m hearing from the smart, objective people who look hard at the polls is that voters are doing 2006 what they did in 1974 and 1994: vote in one direction.   In ’74, that direction was Democratic because of Watergate.  In ’94, it was Republican because of the Clintons.  In ’06, it will be Democratic because of Bush and the war.

We’ll also be seeing that the voters are issue-driven.  Iraq drove Shea-porter’s success.  The anti-illegal immigration feeling gave Graf his victory along the border.   The lack of such a strong issue kept Steve Laffey from winning against Chafee in Rhode Island.   Voters need to know what they’re voting against not just who.

The big question is whether the anti-Bush, anti-war voters get to the polls Nov. 7, in the numbers necessary to offset years of gerrymandering, incumbency, voter habit and fear of the unknown.

The Democratic leadership has yet to offer a clarion call for a clear policy direction.   Maybe the opposition doesn’t have to do that in order to exploit the anti-war, anti-Bush feeling that has showed up in the polls and primaries, but it would be better for the country if it did.  Voters should know what they’re voting for, not just what they’re voting against.  There’s still too much mush out there.

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