Major Papers Launch Online Features for 2006 Elections

By: Sarah Weber

With the mid-term elections only four months away — and an unexpected Democratic primary fight in Connecticut already drawing wide attention, and controversy — two major newspapers have developed extensive online databases aimed at tracking the candidates and the issues that face them.

The Washington Post has an online feature that it calls the Bellwether Project. As described by national political correspondent Dan Balz in an introductory column today, the project aims to examine the Congressional races (and the potential gains or losses by each side) through eight factors. The issues are as follows:

?The Elephant in the Room: How Big a Problem is President Bush for the GOP??
?The Abramoff Echo: Will the Corruption Issue Go National??
?Money Matters: Will Pocketbook Concerns Move Votes??
?Border Patrol: Will the Immigration Issue Save Republicans??
?Anxious Suburbs: Will the Iraq War Come Home in November??
?Tough Terrain: Can Republicans Win in the Northeast??
?Red State Revival: Can Democrats Compete in the Upper South??
?Tune In, Turn Out: What Ballot Issues Will Drive Voters to the Polls??

The Web feature will be continually updated by the staff of both the newspaper and washingtonpost.com. As Balz puts it, ?The Bellwether project is a way of making sense of the chaos and the drama–for political junkies and ordinary voters alike.?

The New York Times also has a Web page devoted to election coverage. Readers are able to use an interactive map of the United States to view specific Congressional races and the pertinent data.

Polls, receipts of money raised, margins of victory in 2000, and population statistics are among the factors that readers can research on the Web page. It also features New York Times ratings of the men and women involved in the races, provided by veteran reproter Adam Nagourney: the ratings are ?safe?, ?leaning,? and ?toss up.? Democrats seems to be in pretty good shape right now, with 19 Senate races leaning their way with the GOP now favored in 13.

After researching certain races and inputting data, readers can save their results.

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