Inside the Capitol

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

4-19 A Very Unusual Election Year

MON, 4-19-10

SANTA FE - Get ready for a wild 2010 election. Indications at this point are that it will be another throw-the-incumbents-out race, much like 1994 and 2006. A recent Gallup Poll tells us that a majority of Americans don't like either of the major parties.
Republicans and Democrats have approval ratings in the low 40-percent range. The Tea Party showed up at 37 percent popularity. It is difficult to divine exactly what the Tea Party showing will mean but it's likely bad news for both major parties.
Tea partiers' major complaints seem to be with government, in general. They dislike Democrats more than Republicans but they can cause trouble in Republican primaries since they aren't particularly GOP loyalists.
A Rasmussen poll shows 47 percent of Americans agreeing with the Tea Party compared with 26 percent agreeing with Congress.
The Gallup Poll also shows that for only the second time since the polling began, Americans even disapprove of their own members of Congress. The usual pattern is for congressional popularity to be somewhere in the 20-percent range but for respondents to rate their own representatives highly. It's human nature -- usually.
The major protests these days are coming from right-leaning groups. The last time we had large scale protests was in the '60s when it was college students and other left-leaning groups. Does that mean the left has taken over?
It could. Democrats took away both houses of Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008. A commonly heard phrase at protests these days is that we are losing our country. The protesters appear to be white, middle-class, middle-aged males, with a generous number of females too.
So protests from the right may be good news for the GOP. It can be a mixed blessing however. When a powerful group organizes outside a party structure, the effect doesn't appear to be as great. In 2004, billionaire George Soros and others formed America Coming Together and spent huge amounts of money on liberal causes.
But it didn't elect John Kerry to the presidency or elect Democratic majorities in either House of Congress. Political observers felt the Democratic Party could have utilized the money more effectively.
This year, the major manpower and money is forming on the conservative side, but as with the Democrats in 2004, some of the big donors are funding other conservative organizations rather than funneling it into the Republican Party.
National GOP Chairman Michael Steele is having trouble keeping his party together. Charges that Steele is spending party money lavishly and unwisely are causing new conservative political action committees to form and attract big money.
In New Mexico, state GOP Chairman Harvey Yates, Jr. is tending to business in a much more effective manner. He has recruited more legislative challengers to Democratic incumbents than any leader in years.
Yates has a tremendous deficit to overcome. Democrats have built up a 45-25 margin in the House, where all the races are this year. Senators don't run until 2012. But he is very likely to start whittling away at that margin.
The timing is unfortunate for Yates. Next year's governor and Legislature will redesign legislative and congressional districts for the next decade. If Democrats retain their legislative majorities and the governor's office, they have the opportunity to change legislative boundaries to benefit Democratic candidates.
For the last several decades, redistricting hasn't altered New Mexico districts to the extent it has in some other states, such as Texas. Republican Gary Johnson was governor 10 years ago and he wasn't about to let Democrats get away with much.
In 1971, 1981 and 1991 Democrat Bruce King was governor. King was a good Democrat but was very much for "keeping it between the fence posts," as he always put it. That disappointed some Democratic leaders but it seemed to be a good way for Old Bruce to keep winning elections.



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