After Tuesday's primary results came in from several states, several media analysts and commentators repeated their opinion that voters were surprising conventional wisdom.
There is, in fact, no conventional wisdom worth talking about this political cycle.
I am suggesting that the surprises have only begun. No incumbent this year, particularly no Democratic incumbent, is safe this cycle. It has been said many times already that voters are upset. I am suggesting that voters are more than upset. They are in a rapacious mood to clean house, something often mentioned rhetorically, but which very rarely happens.
Lisa Murkowski, Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Patty Murray, Richard Blumenthal, Harry Reid were not on any list I saw of vulnerable senators at the beginning of the year. Blanche Lincoln was on a few lists. Now they’re all in trouble. At least 2-3 of them are going to lose, and perhaps all of them will go down. Although the anti-incumbent mood is not directed solely at Democrats, most of the vulnerable members of the House and Senate are those who have voted for the Obama administration’s legislation and supported its policies. (In fact, most of those Republican incumbents in trouble are those who voted for liberal legislation.)
Chris Dodd, Arlen Specter, Roland Burris, George Voinovich and Byron Dorgan are already gone, either defeated in primaries or voluntarily retired rather than face defeat.
We are almost at the end of the primary season. The surprises now will come in the general election. Lacking any political experience to speak of, and evidently no serious student of history, President Obama makes matters worse for his own party almost every day. The Republican leadership in Congress, to be candid, has not been particularly aggressive or imaginative so far, but this is beginning to change. Notwithstanding that Michael Steele is technically the head of the Republican National Committee, the true leadership of the GOP is in the hands of Governor Haley Barbour, former RNC chair and now the head of the Republican Governors Association. Mr. Barbour is a very savvy political operator. Congressman John Boehner, heretofore only a perfunctory critic of the Obama administration, is at last becoming more outspoken. The politically unattractive Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid sound more and more out of touch.
Most importantly, and the primary cause for voter anxiety, is that events and conditions are not going well. Some of these, of course, are beyond the control of presidents and other politicians. But many are not. Voters have observed a steady long list of mistakes made with the economy, pressing domestic issues and foreign policy by the Democrats (and some Republicans), not only at the national and international level.
We are only two months from election day. Undecided voters are already beginning to make up their minds, and their decisions now appear to be going one way. This can change, of course, but August will very soon be September, and by World Series time in October, voter rage may be out of control.
Perhaps, by so-called objective standards, voters may over-react on Election Day. Perhaps. But there is no clarity in government today, no sense of matters getting better, no sense of most elected officials doing much more than take care of themselves.
If this is where we are the first week of November, all bets are off.