Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Real Election Reporting

In the last couple of days E.J. Dionne, the author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Gerald Seib, the former DC bureau chief for the WSJ wrote articles about the primaries today.  On May 17 Dionne wrote "In the GOP, the right is on the march, and even relatively conservative incumbents such as the defeated Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah are not safe against more-conservative-than-thou challengers. But in many of the Democratic primaries, incumbents are in trouble not because they are insufficiently liberal but because they are incumbents." I wonder how Blanche Lincoln would respond to that.  Clearly, the ideological division in the democrat party is not as diverse as it might be.  What about Sestak v. Specter?  Sestak has run a smart campaign which paints the incumbent as not a "real" democrat.  Specter has turned so many positions in his recent career that it is hard to characterize whether he is left or right or simply self-serving.

Seib's column today runs through a larger number of races.  And he points out, correctly in my view, that the challenge this year is against Washington.  Indeed, the candidates who knocked out Senator Bennett a couple of weeks ago are more conservative but their message was "he is part of the problem."   Ditto for the Lincoln Hauser race in Arkansas - plus Hauser because of his strong union support has put in a dash of populism.  But his clear message is that Lincoln is part of the DC problem.  Dionne mentioned Allan Mollihan a pork barrel congressman from West Virginia who got beaten in trying to run for his fifteenth term - again - the message was people are grumpy about how he did business in DC - even though he was pretty successful in bringing home the bacon.  It seems the voters have wised up and now understand that the bacon does not come for free.   

Sieb mentions the numerous democrat incumbents (Bart Stupak, Dave Obey, etc.) who chose not to run for re-election.  In Stupak's case it could be because there is a GOP tide but a lot of his UP constituents were not happy about his capitulation on health care.  Obey also is in a district where voters are increasingly not supportive of business as usual in DC.

I guess a partial answer to Dionne from the title of his book (Why Americans Hate Politics) is the more complete response that it is harder and harder to get Washington reporters to do more than a knee jerk analysis.   Fortunately, writers like Seib continue to try to dissect the situation for us.

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