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Outsider

Gazing into the crystal ball

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Yet another year gone by, yet another crazed, bearded derelict pulled out of a mudhole to stand trial for crimes against humanity ... in some respects it was a pretty good year, at that.

But the past is just that -- one with Nineveh and Tyre, over, gone and vanished. It's our solemn responsibility to pontificate about next year, to make predictions, and to be held accountable for 'em 12 months hence.

Prediction No. 1: George Bush will lose the presidential election in November of 2004. I know, I know -- the economy's doing slightly better, Saddam's in the slam (and can Osama be far behind?), and the president has proven himself to be a forceful leader and a determined campaigner. Oh, and George W. will have what, $300 million or so to fund the re-election push??!! That's fine, but the Dems can and will win, and here's how:

They'll start by nominating Howard Dean, who has already energized his party's base, just as Reagan once energized the Republican base. Dean will select a good, stolid conservative Dem as his running mate (Sam Nunn? Wes Clark?), just as Reagan chose George Bush, the moderate Republican.

Then the Dems will abandon their long-standing "Southern Strategy" and simply cede the South, Southwest, and Mountain West to the GOP. They'll concentrate on the two coasts and the industrial heartland. They won't need to kowtow to Southern evangelicals, Cuban expatriates or Confederate irredentists. That'll free them to tailor their message to traditional Democratic constituencies.

Party activists, still smoldering over the 2000 election, will work fiercely and relentlessly to elect Dean. And, thanks to Dean's Internet-enabled volunteers (150,000-plus and counting), we'll see a grass-roots campaign like no other in history.

The Republicans, rich, arrogant and confident that history's on their side, will be caught flatfooted. The presidential debates, pitting a battle-tested candidate against a smug, isolated president who doesn't even read the newspapers, will decide the election.

Remember 1960, when Vice President Richard Nixon spent months deriding his Democratic opponent, a first-term Massachusetts senator named John Kennedy, as a callow, inexperienced young man wholly unprepared to be president? In the debates, Kennedy seemed confident, knowledgeable and charismatic, while Nixon came off as a typical pol, full of empty clichs and well-worn sound bites. My guess is that George W. will stumble badly, and open the door for the smart, charismatic and plainspoken Dr. Dean.

Prediction No. 2: Come next May, six months after the four voucher-lovin, Steve Schuck-financed District 11 school board members were elected to office, expect to see a well-financed, sophisticated recall effort. I'd guess that the insurgents wouldn't attempt to toss out all of the newbies; after all, they'd only need to remove one to regain a majority. And who better to target than Eric Christen, who can easily be painted as an angry, slightly crazy, anti-public school activist?

Prediction No. 3: Both present city council member Margaret Radford and past council member/perpetual candidate Sallie Clark will be elected to the Board of County Commissioners next November. Once in office, they'll forge common cause with Jim Bensberg to clean up the county. And let's face it: El Paso County needs to be cleaned up in the worst way, after several decades of cozy, insular and secretive good-ol'-boy government. Ironically, term limits will have forced out the estimable Jeri Howells, who, as a minority of one has fought the good-ol'-boy system for many years.

Prediction No. 4: The city won't sell the City Auditorium. Instead, they'll transfer it to a private foundation, which will run it at a profit, cooperate with the redevelopment of the "blighted" auditorium block, and raise a lot of money to renovate the venerable Auditorium. And, of course, the very pols who were ready to sell the auditorium to developers will cheerfully take credit for the private/public partnership that saved it.

Prediction No. 5: Once Radford resigns from Council to take her seat on the county commission, her former colleagues (eight middle-aged mostly white guys in suits) will appoint a middle-aged white Republican woman in a suit to her position. Is that diversity, or what?

Prediction No. 6: If the Republicans lose to Dean in November, they'll want to draft Arnold Schwarzenegger to run against the Doctor in '08. And if the Dems lose to Bush, they'll want to draft Arnold to run as a Dem in '08. Too bad Arnold's not a "native-born American" -- our parochial, nativist Constitution thereby bars him from the presidency.

Last prediction: Saddam will be found "not guilty" -- and I'll win Powerball.

--jhazlehurst@csindy.com

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