The Message of the Off-Year Elections

In a quirky mood, worried about money, the voters turn conservative

Wally McNamee / CORBIS

39th President of the United States Jimmy Carter

The desperate last-minute appeal somehow symbolized the whole tumultuous campaign year. There, in a 30-second television commercial, was the usually dapper and composed Senator Charles Percy of Illinois looking haggard and close to tears. Staring straight into the camera, the onetime presidential aspirant implored millions of unseen viewers: "I got your message and you're right. Washington has gone overboard, and I'm sure that I've made my share of mistakes, but your priorities are mine too. Stop the waste. Cut the spending. Cut the tax."

The voters got...

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