The GOP will spin next week's the elections in NJ and VA as evidence that they are re-surging and attempt to build momentum with their base into 2010 elections. They will say it is a predictor for 2010. That President Obama is losing support. Strategically that is exactly what they should do. Ironically, these are the same two states where Democratic wins in 2005 helped to ease the pain of the 2004 election loss, reminding Democrats that we could win in tough places. The win in 2005 did re-energize our party. It did help us build momentum into the 2006 mid-term elections. However, there is a key difference between the Democrats back then, and the Republicans now: the base of the Democratic Party was far more unified and, despite their dissolution, far more than 20% of Americans were willing to call themselves Democrats. President Obama also is significantly more popular than Bush was at this time. If you talk to voters in these mid-midterms one thing is abundantly clear: people are angrier than they have been in a long time. They aren't necessarily angry with President Obama. But the anger felt in VA and NJ can give insights into 2010. It is the unpredictability of that anger, combined with the diminishing republican brand and the unknown leanings of the "Obama Voters" that should be watched moving into the 2010 elections.
Americans are angry and they're not gonna take it anymore. They've been angry for a long time now. The frustration felt at the end of the Bush presidency reached a boiling point last spring as banks were bailed out; car companies were bailed out yet Main Street and most Americans felt they had no such luck. A broken system was once again working against them. Back then Americans were forced to put aside their anger and focus on survival. Sacrifices and tough decisions like whether to fix the car that takes them to work or fix their child's teeth. As the anger continued to simmer under the surface (and sometimes not) through the summer, it is once again reaching a boiling point.
Imagine what it would feel like to tell your child you can't afford to send them to college this year, hopefully next, only to turn on the news and see two supposedly "distinguished" members of congress bickering like children? Or to read over and again that the reason a bill was watered down was because a member feared a tough race at home or that's what they thought could pass?
As we all learned in science class, energy is neither created nor destroyed, it changes form. So that anger isn't going anywhere, it just needs a target. The effectiveness of various campaigns to direct the anger of the electorate away from themselves and towards their opponents; will play a key factor in the outcome of the 2010 elections. Anyone who is seen to have been party to a broken system, or seem either
Unwilling or unable to take on the system, will likely perish. Under these conditions, incumbents - in spite of party affiliation - will likely face the pitchforks.
Will Republican candidates run as republicans? Given that the republican base is smaller than ever, moving farther and farther to the right-wing, leaving moderates adrift, will republican incumbents and challengers run as republicans or, try to re-brand themselves as "conservatives" seeking to keep their distance from the far-right much in the same way that "progressives" keep distance from the far-left. Does this create an opening for third-party candidates?
The "Obama Voters" Are Up For Grabs. President Obama's incredible campaign brought in scores of new voters. That's a good thing for the country. It remains to be seen if it's a good thing for the Democratic Party. The "Obama voters" from the 2008 election are loyal to President Obama, not to either political party. In 2010, that makes them somewhat up for grabs. And given the inherent difficulties turning out drop-off voters in a mid-term election, in the quest for votes both republicans and democrats will have to woo the Obama voters.
The unpredictability of 2008, and the rising anger of 2009 should remind us as we look at 2010 that anything can happen.