Friday, April 2, 2010

Getting It On, 2010 Version

The 2010 national mid-term elections are now taking full shape as incumbents make their final decisions about whether they will run for re-election or not, and challengers are stepping up to the plate to take on those incumbents who do run.

The momentum so far is clearly to Republican challengers, but this is not true in all states and in all races. Furthermore, if the GOP is to win big in November, it will have to raise a substantial amount of money, develop major national organizing and campaign technology support, and continue to “nationalize” the 2010 elections. A further challenge for Republicans will be to integrate the significant grass roots “Tea Party” movement into their electoral efforts (to avoid self-defeating campaigns in which Tea Party candidates run as independents against Republicans, thus giving elections to the Democrats).

Democrats have serious challenges, too. They need to “localize” as many elections as best they can because national public opinion is not favorable to the recently-passed healthcare legislation, the continued bail-out of big banks and corporations, and to the Obama foreign policy which is in a shambles.

President Obama’s popularity has declined precipitously. The historic surge among black voters in 2008 will not reappear in 2010. Independents, most of whom voted for Obama in 2008, are shifting away from the president. His policy in the Middle East and with our other major allies is also turning off Jewish voters, and other liberals who had different expectations of him. House speaker Nancy Pelosi and senate leader Harry Reid, the daily faces and voices of the Democratic agenda, are not attractive or inspiring political figures.

Republicans seem ready to offer a new “Contract From America.” specifying alternative policies to the current Democratic agenda. How the public will respond to this is unknown. Social conservatives and others on the right who want to revive the immigration issue risk turning away important constituencies, most notable of which is the huge Hispanic voting population. This group is naturally conservative, but in 2006 and 2008 began turning more and more to the Democrats as illegal immigration and amnesty issues were taken up on the right and alienated many Hispanic voters.

Although some manufacturing and retail sectors are showing early signs of recovery, persistent high unemployment and continued record government deficits ominously indicates economic problems ahead. Many large corporations are taking huge write-offs for costs mandated by the new healthcare legislation (which they must do by law before the end of the year) and this will lower earnings across the board. The stock market, and thus the value of pension funds, do not go up when earnings are down.

Specifically, Democrats are ahead in important races in California, Minnesota and New York. The current governors of California and Minnesota are Republicans. In many of the nation’s cities, Democrats continue to do well. Races in Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and other industrial states are currently tipping to the Republicans, but remain too close to call for November. At this point, it is not a slam-dunk for the GOP in 2010. Democrats are now in charge, and they are not going to go away quietly.

On the other hand, the surprisingly radical agenda of the Obama administration in both domestic and foreign policy continues to drain their support. Their interpretation of the recent very narrow and contentious victory on healthcare is that they now have increased support and momentum. The fact is that, if that were true, they would have won the healthcare vote more easily as well as the public debate. In reality, public opinion about Obamacare, if anything, is more negative since passage, and most certainly won’t get better as details of the 2700-page legislation (which apparently no one read beforehand) become known.

President Obama, instead of improving U.S. standing around the world, is becoming an international diplomatic joke as he insults and neglects our allies, and seems to pander to our enemies. How much foreign policy issues will become important in the 2010 elections, however, is yet unknown. Mid-term elections are usually about the domestic economy.

I think its fair to say that the outcome of the 2010 elections now favors the Republicans,and it is theirs to lose. But lacking the details of the imminent “Contract From America” and with the debate between the interests of the GOP and the concerns of many “Tea Party” voters yet unresolved in many key races (Illinois, for example), I think any predictions about the total number of governorships, house and senate races won or lost by either party is premature.

In a month or two, however, this will no longer be true.

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