September 21, 2006

Now that Labor Day, the fifth anniversary of 9/11, and the last of the primaries are behind us, the road is clear to the mid-term elections less than two months away. Be prepared for political ads coming out of the woodwork, charges and rebuttals flying back and forth quicker than the Red Sox’ fall from grace in the American League East, and prognosticators publishing their useless polls that people either breathlessly trumpet or freak out over, depending on their results.

A few observations, helpful links, and things to take note and keep track of as we hurtle our way towards Election Day:

1) The President’s approval rating. The latest from Gallup shows it in the mid-40s, and while this is something the White House can take some satisfaction in and pundits will continue to breathlessly monitor, the fact is, he ain’t running this year! While it is obvious that the President’s speeches over the past several weeks on the Global War on Terror – culminating in his fine 9/11 address last week – have helped improve his ratings, the question is, what effect (if any) will it have on local House and Senate races? My guess is, little.

2) Keep an eye on gas prices. It’s now obvious to everyone that the $3 plus gas prices earlier this year were primarily based on market forces – in this case, speculators anticipating supply problems due presumed reduced refining capacities in the U.S. and the risk of hurricanes. Because neither of which occurred, U.S. home-heating stockpiles are up, and the impact of the Alaska pipeline leak appears to be minimal, gas prices continue to fall. I heard Hannity & Colmes’ Alan Colmes make an off-the-cuff comment the other night about prices coming down “just in time for the election”. While you can guarantee that Democrats will pick up this drumbeat, that dog ain’t gonna hunt. Most consumers are now well aware that oil, like housing, is just another commodity whose prices are dictated by market forces around the world. Last week’s surge in consumer confidence reflects those lower gas prices, and, while it may not help Republican candidates per se, it takes away from Democrats a critical “bread and butter” issue they could have pounded Republicans on.

3) The economy. The Democrats and their cohorts in the dino-media will do all they can to keep you from hearing this, but folks, the economy is humming along nicely, thank you. In the next few weeks, you’ll hear both Republican and Democrat candidates drag out the tired old “are you better off now than you were x number of years ago?”, and for most people, the answer should be a resounding “yes!”. While you’d think good economic news would be sufficient by itself to help Republicans maintain their majority in the Congress, how well they ultimately do will depend on two overriding factors: Iraq and Republican GOTV efforts.

4) Iraq is the 800-lb. gorilla in the middle of every 2006 election living room that won’t go away. The administration up until now has not done a good job publicizing the real progress being made in Iraq, allowing anti-war Democrats to frame the issue politically for their own purposes, as is their right and obligation to their constituents. However, with the latest steps being taken by Iraqis to assume more control over their own security and the new push to reduce sectarian violence in Baghdad, expect the decline in American casualties to continue, and the President’s recent words on the subject to be reflected by improving news on the ground.

5) Republican GOTV. The GOP’s traditional fundraising and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) advantages will be sorely tested this fall, as there are many areas in which the Republican-led Congress has fallen short in the eyes of many conservatives. How the House and Senate’s GOP leadership performs over the next few weeks on spending and earmarks legislation, illegal immigration (funding the wall along our southern border), the President’s anti-terror initiatives (the NSA terrorist wiretapping program and the so-called “torture guidelines” legislation), and Presidential nominees (John Bolton and district court nominees) will have a huge impact on local GOTV efforts.

So what can we expect?

The focus of Democratic candidates between now and November will be on the missteps in Iraq. Politically, that’s really all they have going for them, since just about every other tactic they’ve tried over the past several months has – at least thus far – failed to stick. Because their party has been taken over by Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and the far-left, “blame America first” progressive crowd, Democrats are having a very difficult time making voters believe they can be tough and trusted when it comes to national security issues. Don’t believe me – check this out (Hat tip: Hugh Hewitt). If all the Democrats have to run on is Iraq, their chances for taking control of any house of Congress are slim indeed.

The goal of Republicans is to try and convince the voting public of what the impact of Democrats taking over one or more houses of Congress would mean: less control over illegal immigration, increased taxes, a less-vigilant war on terrorism, withdrawal from Iraq, and activist judges. The next few weeks will be crucial to motivating the base to come out and vote, and it will be up to House and Senate Republicans to give their base something worth coming out and voting for.

How well both parties can get their message out and energize their respective bases to take the time to go and vote will determine the makeup of Congress as we point our way towards the 2008 Presidential election season.

One final note: The ‘X’ Factor. The one caveat anyone trying to predict what will happen in the upcoming elections is that thing called the “X factor. What would happen if the Iraq government collapses, or terrorists blow up subways trains in Washington, D.C., or something happens to the President, Osama Bin Laden is captured and/or killed, or something else unthinkable happens to change the status quo. That’s why, dear readers, the pundits you will hear happily chatting away on the cable networks between now and November are just that – pundits.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 02:17 | Comments Off on The Race Is On
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