Friday, February 12, 2010

Still Early, But...

We turn from sports to the sporting news on the 2010 congressional elections. About a year ago, the media drone was about the deep hole GOPers were digging for themselves after devastating election losses in 2008. This year the drone is about how Democrats are facing disaster, even loss of both houses. Which tells you, first of all that the media drones a lot and amplifies and inflates the same message, and second, that things change.

But given the endless campaign I suppose it's getting to be time to get serious about November. You'd have to think that there are several factors at work. One is the number and identity of incumbents "retiring." Right now, for all the publicity some Dems have gotten (including Patrick Kennedy in Rhode Island today), there are still more GOPers retiring than Dems. Which are from safe districts is another question, and the last time I looked, Nate Silver was suggesting a net loss for Dems.

Two is the quality of candidates, and neither side has a lot going for it. Those are the structural considerations.

In terms of political issues, there is of course the economy. At the moment, things are looking up. The unemployment rate dropped a little, jobless claims just dropped considerably, and today it was announced that retail sales are up. Plus, a new poll shows that voters still blame the Bushies (31%) and not Obama (7%) for the crappy economy.

If there is noticeable recovery by the time voters start paying attention to the election, the Dems won't be hurt. If the Dems have passed health care and a jobs bill, they will quell the current state of grumbling among Dem voters.

But the wild card is the extent of voter anger at all incumbents, which is partly because of the perceived inability of Congress to get anything done (not entirely true, especially comparatively), partly to generalized fear which verges on the apocalyptic, partly to the spoiled "independence" of voters who want instant solutions and fall for the latest new face.

How strong will the "throw the bums out" sentiment be come November? We won't really know until the day after the election. It's been a big factor in recent elections but hasn't yet dominated. It's certainly an understandable feeling, but it usually leads to stupid choices. It's so easy to exploit. And with more corporate money likely to be in play, we could see a lot more new faces--promising to solve problems and cut taxes-- sold like beer.

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