Clinton's lead over Dole, while fluttering a bit with short-term events, has remained remarkably steady over the past nine months. It may not be premature to suggest that in two respects at least, it is quite possible that a second Clinton term might have some similarity to Roosevelt's.
The issue in the 1936 election was the economy. Roosevelt had applied the remedies of the New Deal, but the Depression lingered. He said his relief and public works programs had brought economic salvation and a degree of hope to millions of the unemployed. Republicans said they had solved nothing and had cost Americans their freedom.
What was not discussed in the 1936 campaign was the growing threat of Nazi Germany and imperial Japan - problems that would increasingly preoccupy FDR as his second term unfolded and war broke out in Europe and Asia. Foreign policy and defense issues are notably missing from this campaign as well, even though, as Richard Haas, a former White House National Security Council official and Brookings Institution scholar, told me, ``It is not out of the question that the next presidential term may be more defined by foreign affairs than domestic issues.''
The silence on this subject is particularly odd when you consider that two nations which have preoccupied American military and diplomatic leaders for the past half-century - Russia and China - are likely to face leadership crises during the next presidential term. No one knows what will happen in Russia after Boris Yeltsin, or in China when its aged leaders leave. Last week's headlines reminded us that the troubles in Bosnia, Haiti, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf are not over. But, like the voters of 1936, we prefer to shut the world out of our thoughts.
The second possible parallel involves the greatest domestic controversy of FDR's second term, his so-called court-packing scheme. Angered by Supreme Court decisions striking down several key pieces of New Deal legislation, the reelected Roosevelt vowed that the ``nine old men'' would not thwart his designs for another four years. He proposed a bill that would allow him to appoint an additional justice for each member of the court who passed his 70th birthday and did not retire.
The proposal set off a furor, and FDR abandoned the plan. No subsequent president has sought to restructure the court but each of them has hoped for the opportunity to reshape its thinking by appointing justices whose philosophy is like their own. Clinton, who named Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer during this term, may well have the opportunity, if reelected, to appoint two or three more.
Dole has made only fleeting and occasional references to this possibility. During the primaries and, occasionally, since winning the nomination, Dole has drawn applause from Republican audiences by declaring that ``no liberals need apply'' for judgeships when he is president. Although he voted to confirm both the Clinton nominees, Dole would unquestionably go in a very different direction if he were making the appointments himself.
Could the second-term parallel extend to a basic conflict between the president and the Senate over the direction of the Supreme Court? It certainly could if - as seems likely today - Republicans maintain their control of the Senate. A Republican Party denied control of the White House might well decide it could not allow Clinton to put his stamp decisively on the judicial branch as well.
David S. Broder is based at the Washington Post.