Monday, January 4, 2010

10 Things to Watch for in 2010

With 2009 over and a midterm election just 11 months away, pundits will be commenting on every imaginable issue over the year. Most of this you can probably ignore, but there are 10 things to keep your eye on in '10.

1) Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs. With only a few small dips here and there, unemployment steadily went up in 2009. The majority of Americans said at the beginning of Obama's term that they'd give him 18 months to revive the economy before blaming him for economic woes. As many predicted, that leash was a lot shorter. The stock market may be doing better, the GDP is up, and the recession is technically over - now jobs must be created. The success of the Democratic Party this year primarily hinges on this issue.

2) Who is "Nationalizing" the Midterms? Frankly, neither the Democrats nor the Republicans should want to nationalize these elections, as neither party is particularly popular at the federal level. And despite the fact that you can tweet a message across the world, all politics is still local. Republicans will want to take the route of Chris Christie and target state and local Democratic failures (particularly on state and local budget issues) rather than the President. This is not what they appear to be planning. His approval rating may be low, but many state and local Democrats are even less popular right now. Democrats should focus on themselves as individual candidates - and what they've personally done for the local community - rather than point to their larger party.

3) The Ire of the Bases. Everyone knows that the conservative base of the GOP is angry, as made evident by the outlandish Tea Party protests last year. But the liberal base of the Democratic Party is also uneasy. Just read Maureen Dowd's recent New York Times column. While nationalizing the election won't do any good reaching swing voters and changing voter preference, it could influence voter turnout. In 2010, the GOP's base is set to get active while the Democratic base might just stay home. Republicans would do themselves good to continue accelerating conservative angst with Obama and national Democrats, while Democrats would do themselves good to make a New Year's resolution to re-engage progressives against the national GOP.

4) The Incumbency Effect. It's usually beneficial to a politician to already hold the office he or she is running for. This might not be the case this year. Senators like Chris Dodd, Harry Reid, and Blanche Lincoln are at risk of losing their seats, along with a handful of House members. Pay close attention to elections this spring to see how local incumbents handle their races. Incumbents didn't do so well last year, but politics is by no means a consistent game.

5) Turning Activism into Campaigning. Ultimately, campaigns are the most important factors in elections. The way the base is engaged will not only affect turnout, but volunteering and contributing as well. Democrats need to inject (figurative) steroids into Organizing for America to bring back Obama volunteers for midterm races, and Republicans will want to come up with ways to redirect Tea Party activists towards assisting GOP candidates.

6) The Role of New Media. 2008 proved to be a great year for New Media operations, as the Obama campaign utilized them better than any campaign had before. Now with Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging, and text-messaging becoming norms in political communication, 2010 will be a great test-year for how New Media can affect the outcomes of non-presidential races. The relative success of these operations this year will have a major impact on how campaigns use such services in the future.

7) How Long it Takes for a Healthcare Bill to be Signed. Passage of some sort of healthcare bill is becoming increasingly likely, but in order to appease enough members of both houses, it will take considerable time to sort out the details. Current goals are for a bill on President Obama's desk by mid-February, but it could take a lot longer than that. The sooner it is passed, the sooner Democrats can get past this contentious piece of legislation and focus on more appealing work that doesn't look so mucky to their constituents. Democrats will want the period between the signing and the election to be as long as possible - Republicans will want it to be as short as possible.

8) After Healthcare, What Next? Originally, it looked like President Obama would want to tackle climate change after a healthcare bill was complete. But with global warming denial as high as it is, an uncertain economic outlook, and local reservations about cap-and-trade, this might not be a good idea politically. Democrats would do themselves well to focus on improving education - Obama's other policy on the agenda - which is harder to lose votes over.

9) The War in Afghanistan. This will probably be one of those issues that sees a lot of ups and downs in public opinion. Many voters will not realize how long a surge will take, and that will produce misconceptions about the progress of the war. In the end, I don't think it will have a huge impact on the November elections, but if there does appear to be a general trend it could mean some subconscious attitudes will surface on Election Day. So pundits may want to track public opinion on the war now and again.

10) The Census. With 2010 Census forms due to hit homes around March, estimates regarding population shifts will come about periodically. That will be quite significant after this year is over. Where Congressional districts are lost and gained will have a huge impact on the make-up of Congress over the next decade, and could either confirm or disconfirm speculations of political realignment. Also be sure to watch the elections of State Legislatures, as they will be in charge of redistricting after this year.

Happy New Year!

1 comment:

anthonyhaley said...

"#3 Democrats would do themselves good to make a New Year's resolution to re-engage progressives"

I agreee with #3. #3 is made more difficult by President Obama's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan rather than end the wars, a promise which motivated progressives. Progressives were also expecting universal health care. Fortunately for Democrats, both parties will have some explaining to do when, after this protracted nasty battle, health insurance is even more expensive for those who currently can afford it; and, millions of others find that they still have no health insurance.