Here is my list on issues and people that may impact the election today, along with my own predictions.
Iraq – The media has made this election about the war in Iraq. News coming out of the struggling democracy has been negative for the last few months. Maybe that is actually the case. Maybe the media is exaggerating it. Regardless, American citizens will vote based on what they have seen. The sentencing of Saddam may provide a small boost for the Republicans, but this issue is still a net loss for the GOP.
George W. Bush – Oddly enough, his name was not on the ballot this morning when I voted. I say that because the constant drum beat from the Democrats has been that this election is about President Bush. While he may be a negative on the whole, he can still rally the base and that is what midterm elections are all about. If he can convince enough Republican voters to come back, he may end up being a positive.
Economy – Funny how we are no longer hearing “the worst economy since Herbert Hoover.” Strange how no one is talking about the worst job creation record ever. Odd how no one is talking about the economy period. Unemployment is at a ridiculously low 4.4%. The stock market has soared to record heights. Inflation is low. Virtually every economic indicator looks great. Somehow it’s no longer “the economy, stupid.” If people paid attention, this would be a huge plus for the Republicans.
Mark Foley – This story has pretty much run its course and probably will have little to no impact at all on the race. Several polls were even showing the write-in Republican candidate in Foley’s old seat within striking distance. That shows this is no longer an issue, especially on the national level.
Ted Haggard – His story is a sad tale. I hope he will be completely honest and will get the healing he needs to move on in his life. I hate talking about this in terms of politics, but the release of the information was admittedly timed to have an impact on the election in Colorado. Moral failings of leaders do not negate issues they supported – if so the Democrats should have abandoned all the ideas put forth by Bill Clinton. If anything the downfall of Haggard will remind the voters in favor of conservative values why they feel the way they do.
John Kerry – He has to be the greatest tool the Republican’s have to get out the vote. Thanks to him, the Republicans won in 2004 and they may just sneak out a win in 2006 (or at least limit their loses). His “botched joke” reminded conservative and independent voters why they were afraid to put him and Democrats in charge in the last several elections.
Nancy Pelosi – She went into hiding after she gave her plans for her reign as Speaker of the House. Conservative Democrats in tight races do not want to be tied to the liberal Pelosi, but ads in key contests are featuring the Democratic challenger with Pelosi. The Democrats cannot win running as liberals in the vast majority of the nation. She is a negative for any Democrat in the South in a close race.
Scandals – Several scandals have marred the Republicans in recent memory from the Jack Abramoff to Scotter Libby and others. Early on Democrats were using the “culture of corruption” mantra, but that died after several Democrats had issued raised about their own character, fundraising issues and connections to Abramoff. While the Democrats have not mentioned it as much, the media has still branded the Republican party as the one with the scandal problem. I don’t think will have much play left, but if it does it will hurt the GOP.
Polls – Did the Democrats peak to early and lead their voters to get apathetic? The polls and the pundits have been guarenteeing a Democratic takeover for months, which may lead some Democrats to think their vote is not needed. Or it may have the opposite effect and lead Republicans to think all is lost. Somehow, someway as it has with most recent elections the polls will be a story come tomorrow.
Voter turnout – One of the biggest strides Republicans have made is in their get-out-the-vote machine. The GOP has turned it into an art, frustrating Democrats and pollsters. In most elections it is now a given that the Republicans will get the base to turn out – this is not most elections. The conservative base of the party is angry at those elected. They are angry about spending, immigration and a host of other issues where it seems the party has lost their principles. Many feel the GOP was more worried about staying in power and pursuing an agenda. That strategy may backfire if the Republicans cannot get the base to hold their nose and vote for candidates in which they are disappointed.
Conclusion – A local talk show host put it best – the election will hinge on what matters more “disgust or mistrust.” Are people disgusted at the Republicans more or do they distrust the Democrats more? I’m not sure which is which.
Prediction – I think, as with every other recent election, it will be close because the GOP GOTV drive is much better than people think and it does not show up in the polls. Several of the key Senate races are breaking late for the Republicans. I believe they will keep at least a 2 seat majority there. The House is a completely different story. The GOP has a lot of ground to defend and not much room for error. If the Republicans win some of the key toss-up races in places like Georgia, it will be a long night for the Democrats and the liberal pundits on TV. I do think the Democrats will take control of the House, but only by the slimmest of margins and they will far short of their projections and the average pick-ups for the opposition party during a mid-term election.
Bonus Prediction – The Democrats are already playing their election trump card. From hopeful Speaker Pelosi: “That is the only variable in this. Will we have an honest count?” Get ready for a long night and possible delay in who’s in control. Close elections will be challenged. The party that was angry over dimpled chads will be angry over electronic voting machines, if they don’t pick up seats in areas they think they should. If the Democrats win big, with people in St. Louis and Baltimore voting early and often, don’t expect too much concern about voting irregularities.