Everyone is having a field day analyzing the current primaries and the November general. Every other year it is a time to look at the state of America and project what direction we are headed politically. This year is no different, and no matter where you turn someone has an opinion.
Like most Americans, I have opinions on this, but I also have some ideas about what guideposts to be looking for. As a very complex society, out elections reflect that complexity and election results can't be boiled down into pro-tea party or pro-liberal. Cookie-cutter answers do not apply to this election cycle. So, here is a guide on what to look for:
1) All politics is local. Tip O'Neill said it years ago, and it is as true today. This is the trump card over most other signs and signals. People have been working overtime in analyzing the election in Pennsylvania for John Murtha's seat. The Democrats are claiming victory, but the simple fact is that John Murtha brought millions of dollars to the district. Voters realize that with a Democratic member in a Democrat-controlled Congress this is going to add jobs and money to the district. Rand Paul also began to be a national figure in the Kentucky Senate race, and his campaign smartly pulled him back from "Meet the Press" on Sunday. When you are running a local campaign, it is prudent to stay local.
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2) Old age is a factor. A little less than 13 percent of Americans are older than 65. Although young people do not vote as much as older Americans, the dumping of Sens. Specter of Pennsylvania and Bennett of Utah may have something to do with their ages of 80 and 77, respectively. Time to move on guys and let the others have a chance.
3) Social issues are related to age, too. No more Karl Rove tactics of taking a social issue like gay marriage and getting people out to vote to achieve a George Bush win. In his recent book, he now is denying that this changed the voting pattern. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. However, even in this short period of time views have changed and younger voters simply don't care.
4) Jobs, jobs, jobs. In the Clinton years, it was "the economy, stupid." The economy is coming back, but jobs are not. Whoever has an economic plan that is believable when it comes to job creation is going to have an excellent shot at getting elected.
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5) Tea-party candidates need to have a viable plan. What started off as the Taxed Enough Already movement, when taxes are historically the lowest since the '50s, needs a real plan. Government spending is really the issue, and our priorities for that spending is a real concern. Tea-party candidates who throw in the entire kitchen sink during the elections had better beware. Voters have a tremendous amount of information at their fingertips, and although the party faithful might go for a tea-party agenda that involves social issues, defense issues, etc., the general-election voter is pickier.
6) Americans like a divided government. Our citizens get nervous when one group holds all the power. They don't trust one party to run things. When Bill Clinton got walloped in his first midterms, he went on to secure a second term. This might happen to President Obama, and it will make his presidency stronger not weaker. There is a good chance that the November elections will reflect the "reduce their power" mentality.
7) Health care or Obamacare anger is not going to be much of a factor. It is done, and outside of people wanting to be able to get access, it hasn't happened yet. The health-care spending has not begun, and so the Republicans can only point at hypothetical costs and outcomes. It is so wonky that most people's eyes glaze over.
8) Wall Street and Main Street will continue to be a theme. What voters do remember is the Wall Street bailout. If the financial reform bill is understandable to the voter, and if it finally is signed into law, it is going to be a huge asset for incumbents that voted for it.
There are many other factors that will effect this midterm election, but some of the on-the-street conventional wisdom is not the whole story. Elections are complicated snapshots of America at one point in time. The 2010 midterms are, too.