Election years without a presidential race often come with lower voter turnouts and less public interest, but these mid-term elections can be big indicators of social shifts, and they can change the balance of power in Washington dramatically.
In states like California where the deficit is astronomical, the budget process is out of control, and major Constitutional crises have arisen, the outcome of the gubernatorial race is just as important - if not more so - than a presidential race would be. And this year, some of the most contentious races in the nation involve women. In short, the 2010 election cycle cannot be ignored, and the outcome could be surprising.
Political pundits tend to focus on three areas during the mid-term elections:
1) presidential approval ratings;
2) number of open seats in Congress; and
3) top issues of national public concern.
And of course in each of these areas, pollsters run numbers in the months leading up to the election, with everyone speculating on what they may mean.
Then there's the rogue element -- party leaders like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, who aren't actually in office but play big roles in motivating groups to get out and vote.
But first, Obama. His approval numbers are down, but no more than any other presidents in recent years mid-term. So while Republicans may try to make something of that, it's not the most important issue in the race. Opinion of President Obama matters, but not necessarily as much as other things. Major initiatives like his latest six-year infrastructure plan will be more likely to shift attention on him and his administration, given the current economic climate. In his speech last Tuesday, the president went directly after Republican House leader, John Boehner, who has "so far said no to infrastructure." The president touted, "That's bad for America -- and that too is what this election is about."
Regarding open seats in Congress, if Democrats could gain seats (unlikely), they could overcome the filibuster and pass sweeping legislation. If Republicans gain seats (more likely, from multiple polls), greater work across the aisle will be required to make anything happen in the House or Senate, and Nancy Pelosi could theoretically be unseated as Speaker of the House. That would diminish the power of the Democrats and likely the power of women as well, since she would be replaced by Boehner.
Party loyalists spend a lot of time worrying about losing seats and power in the House and Senate because of their respective agendas, but the real result could just be stymied process and a lot of slow-down in Congress, making reform -- that many people seem to want -- very difficult. Karl Rove likes to troll the data and opine on the outcome, tweeting "I see a tsunami coming and it ain't going to be pretty for the Obama White House," as a companion to his op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
Last Friday morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent out e-mail showcasing the latest on their desk showing Barbara Boxer leading Carly Fiorina to retain her Senate seat from California. Their website emphasizes "13 races within 5 points." Of the 36 states with Senate races this year, a record 36 women filed to run for those spots. Some of the other women running in key Senate races:
- Blanche Lincoln (Democrat - Arkansas)
- Christine O'Donnell (Republican - Delaware)
- Jennifer Brunner (Democrat - Ohio)
- Robin Carnahan (Democrat - Missouri)
- Linda McMahon (Republican - Connecticut)
- Roxanne Conlin (Democrat - Iowa)
Mud's been flying in some of these races, particularly Carnahan vs. Blunt in swing state Missouri. At RedState, ladyimpactohio went after Carnahan and her previous campaign for Secretary of State in an attempt to link her to corrupt activities. But that's not all - According to Joan McCarter, the Republican Senator from Alaska, Lisa Murkowski may launch a write-in campaign to try one last-ditch effort at winning her seat back after losing in the primary.
In races for governor, Meg Whitman, a Republican with no previous government experience but who has spent over $100 Million of her own money, is challenging former California Governor Jerry Brown. Whitman is loved and hated, with everyone weighing in, including mom bloggers. A post at Single Parent, Only Child reads, "since Schwarzenegger is a failure, and Ms. W. sounds uncannily like him, the clear choice is not to elect Meg Whitman to the office of California’s governor." In South Carolina, Republican Nikki Haley has a shot at the top, as does Democrat Alex Sink in Florida.
A record 262 women filed for House races this year. And in statewide races, stakes are high, particularly in the area of education, where budgets are being slashed right and left. (See Cynematic's interviews with two women running for seats on the State Board of Education in Texas.)
In terms of top issues, the economy is still the biggest nationally, so it's become the target of most candidate and surrogate stump speeches. Each side will try harder to own control of economic issues as November approaches. In his speech last Tuesday, Mr. Obama emphasized this, pulling the extension of middle class tax cuts out of his policy hat.
"These families are the ones who saw their wages and incomes flatline over the last decade –- and they deserve a break. And because they are more likely to spend on basic necessities, this will strengthen the economy as a whole."
Then the president went for the jugular:
"With all the other budgetary pressures we have –- with all the Republicans’ talk about wanting to shrink the deficit -– they would have us borrow $700 billion over the next ten years to give a tax cut of about $100,000 to folks who are already millionaires. These are among the only folks who saw their incomes rise when Republicans were in charge. And these are folks who are less likely to spend the money, which is why economists don’t think tax breaks for the wealthy would do much to boost the economy."
So who still thinks the 2010 election doesn't matter? Expect November 2nd to be a nail biter.
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