Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Even Republicans Are Saying It

This is an election that will be fought on national issues despite the wishes of Jimbo. Now David Winston, a Republican Pollster and Roll Call, says Jimbo and his Republican comrades are living in fantasy land (subscription required):

The late Speaker Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.) is credited with the old political maxim that "all politics is local." Once upon a time, he may have been right - back in an era when politics, as O'Neill knew it, boiled down to a simple equation, Candidate A vs. Candidate B. But this no longer exists. Instead, campaign politics have morphed into a new reality where "all politics has become, in fact, national."


So, will 2006 follow the pattern of the past 30 years? If the national right track/wrong numbers were 55 percent to 35 percent instead of the reverse, would we even be asking if the House and Senate were in play? If politics truly were local, wouldn't national numbers such as the right track/wrong track or presidential job approval be irrelevant?

Some argue that every race, in the end, is a singular battle between two candidates, with each shaping their campaigns at the local level in such a way that national issues become secondary. Then, the discussion usually turns to such variables as the political makeup of the district, the quality of the campaigns or candidates, and the ability to raise money.


But usually, unless a candidate has a "scandal problem" or a unique story like Lynn Swann, also in Pennsylvania, keeping things local today is virtually impossible in an age of cable news, Web logs and talk radio. When was the last time Rush Limbaugh talked about local issues?

When O'Neill was Speaker, most Americans got their political news from the networks and their local newspaper. Today, cable television news has moved ahead of network television, with 38 percent of Americans saying they regularly watch cable, while only 35 percent watch the networks for campaign news (according to a Pew poll from January 2004). And they watch it differently.


From a pollster's point of view, those remarkable numbers tell me that we've got a national campaign environment and probably a permanent one.

For the two national parties, it should tell them that running campaigns in the future will be a little like managing a marketing campaign for Coke. To sell its products, Coke may rely on local and regional sales strategies that reflect local consumer preferences or specific cultures - but the company's bottom line ultimately depends on the effectiveness of its national message, which establishes its national brand.

The fall Congressional elections will likely be no different. Democrats have spent the past year trying to ensure that this will be a national election. With issues including the war in Iraq, rising gas prices, immigration, health care, the economy and taxes driving the current right track/wrong track numbers and the president's job approval, they likely will get what they want.

The fact is Jimbo is going to have to defend his out of touch positions on abortion and stem cell research, Jimbo is going to have to explain why he sides with Bush 88% of the time, and he's going to have to tell us why big oil is more important than his consitutuents.


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