By Barry Casselman
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.