Monday, May 17, 2010

Tuesday's Vote Signals Anger That Crosses Political Divides

Newsweek magazine and perhaps its on-line machine may be going down in flames, but give them credit for going out with spunk. Andrew Romano, one of its political writers, warns us not to take Tuesday's Super Duper primaries too seriously.

He includes himself among the bloviating pundits and subscribes to the school of thinking that we are in a national mood of anti-incumbency that crosses political divides.

I agree. Andy, if I may be so bold to call him that, reminds us that all politics is local. Here's how he sizes up the mood of the country:
Despite recent GDP growth, job gains, and stock-market rallies, whatever economic recovery we're currently supposed to be experiencing hasn't really trickled down to Main Street. Most ordinary Americans are still stuck in the Great Recession—still struggling to find work, still tightening their belts, still worried about paying the bills. And so, as poll after poll has shown, they are angry, agitated, and restless. They blame the establishment, the insiders, the Beltway types, the incumbents—the people who are in charge. They tend on the whole to direct their ire at Democrats, because right now Democrats tend to be in positions of power. But for the most part their dissatisfaction is not ideological. They want someone who can make things better. And someone different is a start.   
He seems to be stealing a page from Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign of "Change You Can Believe In" in sizing up the collective mood of voters. Let's look at the examples he uses followed by some of my own.

In Pennsylvania, the Democratic primary between Rep. Joe Sestak and ancient incumbent Arlen Specter is a dead heat as is the election for replacing the late John Murtha in the conservative Democratic 12th District between Republican businessman Tim Burns and Democrat Mark Critz, a former Murtha aide.
But every possible outcome—slim victories for the incumbent types, slim upsets for the challengers—will say pretty much the same thing: that in 2010, the voters of Pennsylvania are much more attracted to anti-establishment candidates—and much less inclined to take their marching orders from Gov. Ed Rendell's Democratic machine—than they normally would be.
In Arkansas, Romano expects two-term incumbent Blanche Lincoln to defeat her liberal opponent Lt. Gov. Bill Halter if not by a plurality Tuesday then by a majority in next month's runoff.  All it means is the challengers from the left (Halter) and right (businessman D.C. Morrison) make Lincoln's life more miserable to retain her seat in the Senate. 

"Describing the Arkansas nominating contest as a referendum on the incumbent's ideology doesn't make a whole lot of sense," he writes. Rather, it is how voters interpret the effects on them Lincoln cast on health reform, stimulus and bank bailout legislation. 
In Kentucky, the Tea Party favorite to win the Republican Senatorial nomination is libertarian Rand Paul over the party's machine favorite personally picked by Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The establishment's Trey Grayson is just as conservative as Rand, "but Paul has a lock on the protest brand, and protest is what's hot right now."
The question is whether the candidates in these three states and the conservative Republican Marco Rubio in Florida hold up in the general election in November.  
In some states, it doesn't matter. Just ask Senate incumbent Bob Bennett of Utah, essentially a one-party state, who failed to be nominated in his party's caucuses because of votes he cast that advocates opposed.

In California, a frenzied Republican base in the June 8 Primaries is hoping to oust Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer while at the same time are fighting among themselves over conservatives Meg Whitman and Steve Poisner for governor. Again it doesn't matter what Tuesday's results unfold. It's November that will count.

I see a true test of good government with an incumbency on the line in my own backyard here in Riverside County in California. It is the race for county District Attorney between Rod Pacheco, a no nonsense incumbent who has thumbed his nose at the county Board of Supervisors on department budget cuts, and challenger Paul Zellerbach, a superior court judge for 10 years who spent 22 years as a prosecutor in the DA's office.

Now that's a true test of all politics being local.

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