Alex Massie

Mid-Term Myth-Making

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Not long until Labor Day and the semi-official kick-off for the mid-term elections. Which also means that the papers will be stuffed with predictions that the losses in the mid-terms show that Obama is doomed and so on. Whether one cares for the President or not, this is simply not the case. Happily Norm Ornstein and Alan Abramowitz have launched a pre-emptive strike against some of the plausible-but-false notions that we can expect to see plenty of for the rest of the year.

Specifically: 1. Mid-terms don't predict future election results. 2. Anti-incumbency is vastly over-rated. 90% of incumbents will win. 3. The President's "message" is not going to have much of an impact. 4. It's not always all about the economy, though this year it might be. 5. Mid-terms momentum is easily squandered and doesn't always translate into a mandate.

Of these 3. is the most significant, at least in terms of media coverage. As the authors point out:

If voters are unhappy with the president and the economy is bad, even a great communicator such as Reagan can do little to prevent significant losses by his party. The same is true for presidential advisers. Karl Rove looked like a genius in 2002 because Bush was still enjoying strong public approval in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Four years later, in 2006, Rove didn't look so smart when voters took out their dissatisfaction with the president and the Iraq war on Republican congressional candidates.

Of course, some individual seats will always be affected by the president's message. And in a year when the difference between Democrats losing 35 or 40 House seats is the difference between having Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Speaker John Boehner, every district matters. But overall, there is probably little that Obama can say or do in the next couple of months to change the broad outcome of this year's elections. The die has already been cast.

Quite. The economy isn't everything but it's a large part of the reason why Democrats will do poorly this November and, absent some heroic turnarousn in public confidence, there's not much the President can do about that. Still, only a fool would write Obama off even if his party loses the House. Apart from anything else, it's not obvious that the Republican party has a strong field of candidates from which to select its challenger in 2012...

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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