It's crime, stupid

November 04, 1993

The Clinton campaign staff motto in 1992 was "It's the economy, stupid." The point was, the issue of slow (or no) growth was the issue that would win votes. That no doubt was also an important issue in several of Tuesday's elections. In New Jersey, for example, where Republican Christine Todd Whitman ousted incumbent Democratic Gov. James Florio, his tax increase was blamed for the loss of jobs in the state -- including, now, his own.

But crime was also on New Jersey voters' minds. Indeed, Governor Florio tried to offset the economic and tax issues by insisting that his anti-guns stands and policies proved that he was tougher on crime than Mrs. Whitman. Had he not won about 70 percent of the voters who told exit pollsters that guns and crime were the most important issues, he would have been beaten much worse than he was.

In the Virginia gubernatorial race many factors led to the defeat of Democratic former Attorney General Mary Sue Terry, including, certainly, the disarray in her party's leadership. But Rep. George Allen's large margin can also be attributed in part to his tough anti-crime campaigning. He has pledged to build more prisons in the state -- and a majority of Virginia voters seems to believe that is one state expense that should not be spared.

In the other high profile race of Tuesday, Republican tough guy and former prosecutor Rudolph Giuliani ousted New York's Democratic mayor, David Dinkins, in a campaign that stressed crime more than any in memory.

Among many other races Tuesday, the one for mayor of Houston didn't attract much attention. It was no contest. First term Mayor Bob Lanier was re-elected with 91 percent of the vote -- largely on the basis if his two-year record of greatly beefing up police street patrols and sharply reducing violent crime. Statewide, Texans approved a billion-dollar bond issue for prison building. And among the propositions that voters approved Tuesday was XTC a tough one in Washington state -- to put three-time losers behind bars for life, with no parole.

Crime, a Republican political operator in the nation's capital said before the election, was supposed to be "the sleeper issue of 1994." It woke up a year early.

By 1994, what Bill Bennett, the former education and drug official under Ronald Reagan and George Bush, said this week may well be correct. He said, "It's the number one issue in the country, crime. It's not health care, it's crime."

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