We are now entering a curious moment in the already curious 2010 mid-term elections. The year’s themes and trends have been established, and very little if anything can alter that. The anger at President Obama and his party has been so strong that most Democratic incumbents in the U.S. house and senate, and in gubernatorial races, have seen remarkable vulnerability so far, with very large gains for the Republicans now expected.
Since this anger is emotional as well as substantive, it would seem that the high pitch of voter dissatisfaction cannot like be maintained at this level for the entire next five weeks. With little of substance to salvage what races they can, Democrats have turned to smear attacks against their opponents earlier than usual. (To be fair, in years past when they were behind, Republicans often resorted to attacks on Democrats.)
The natural tendency for grass roots movements to proceed with stops and starts, will produce, I think, a political pause in some (but not all) closely contested races over the next three weeks. This does not mean the outcome will be changed, and in fact, it will likely provide the Tea Party movement and GOP activists with renewed energy as they go into what will likely be a furious and epic final two weeks of the campaign at the end of October.
What will be the specific kind of phenomena we will now see in the next three weeks? First, earlier-than-usual heavy advertising by well-financed Democratic incumbents and their supporting groups, much of it laden with harshly negative personal attacks on their challengers. Second, a great deal of volatility of poll numbers in the most competitive races, including momentary “comebacks” by several Democratic figures who have been slipping in their numbers. Third, a massive effort by the Old Media, including the TV networks (except Fox and C-SPAN) and the New York Times, Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, etc., to resurrect the prospects of the Democratic candidates and the Obama administration. This media effort will attempt to reinforce the negative attacks on GOP candidates, and will also try to portray President Obama, the Congress and its legislative record, in a favorable and upbeat light.
Will any or all of this work? Not very likely. Democratic incumbents, especially those who voted for Obamacare, are prisoners of their president and their own party.
The public has come to expect last-minute tactics by politicians and their campaigns, and although scandal does not help a candidate, this is a year that the public is itching to make a point of its own, and it will employ virtually any challenger to do its bidding.
There is, of course, an after-the-election consequence to the voters’ desire to register their unhappiness. Any Republican elected this year who reverts to politics-as-usual and does not vote to change the current political climate in Washington, DC or their state capital will be summarily dismissed in the next election.
To call to mind an earlier American revolt, this is the whites of their eyes.