Every year we hear that the upcoming election in the United States is to be one of the most important in modern history. And while a credible case can be made that those elections were indeed important, the 2000 elections are truly the most important in years. The 2000 elections feature a battle for control of the House of Representatives, a wide-open race for president, and a number of high-profile Senate races.
In the race for president, Texas governor George W. Bush has dominated the campaign for the Republican Party's nomination earlier than any candidate in modern history. The traditionally hierarchical Republican Party seemed to lack a true heir-apparent for the 2000 contest until late spring, when Bush suddenly took command. Bush now has a significant and perhaps insurmountable lead over his potential rivals in polls and fundraising.
Bush has raised a record $37 million so far, outpacing his nearest Republican rival, Arizona senator John McCain, by over $30 million. Not only has Bush raised more money in the first six months of 1999 than the rest of the Republican field combined, but he has raised more during that period than any previous candidate for the office has in any six-month period, incumbents included. His fundraising success virtually ensures that he will forgo federal matching funds and so will be able to spend freely to secure both his party's nomination and victory in the general election.
Polls also show Bush far out in front. In a Gallup poll for CNN and USA Today, taken June 25-27, Bush led the field with a whopping 59 percent, 13 points higher than in the two previous Gallup polls in late May and early June. All other Republican contenders were in single digits. Similarly, in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, taken June 16-19, Bush did even better with 61 percent of the vote, though former Transportation Secretary Elizabeth Dole did barely manage to move into double digits with 11 percent, compared to her 8-percent, second-place showing in the late-June Gallup poll. It is unprecedented for a nonincumbent presidential candidate to so dominate a race this early.
Increasingly, the question being asked is not whether Bush's bid for the GOP nomination will be stopped but whether it can be stopped. Every week Governor Bush's campaign juggernaut seems to clear yet another checkpoint without serious mishap. Bush made it through his initial foray into Iowa, New Hampshire, and the Northeast without a major misstep, and that was with a level of press coverage previously reserved for papal visits. That trip featured microscopic scrutiny of Bush's performance. More recently he made it through California and almost a …