With less than two weeks before November 4th, and Americans already heading to the polls in early voting states, candidates across the political spectrum are engaged in a final sprint to engage voters. Politically, after more than 18 months of Presidential competition, an election that once looked like a referendum on US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has shifted to one primarily focused on the health of the economy.
Frozen credit markets, anemic earnings reports in key sectors, bank failures and home values in precipitous decline, combined with over $1 trillion in federal spending to intervene in the financial markets have placed economic issues as the core of the political landscape in the waning days of the 2008 election cycle. Amid this climate, both the Bush Administration and Congress face dismal national approval ratings with voters seeking new solutions to the domestic and foreign policy issues facing the nation.
Though it is unclear how severely the recently passed Wall Street rescue plan and the ongoing volatility in the equities markets will affect political races across the country, it is clear that these issues will weigh heavily on the minds of voters as they head to the polls.
With the financial crisis as a backdrop for other factors shaping the political environment, numerous other trends will impact the results of the election. Chief among these are the significant financial and voter registration advantage achieved by Democratic national party committees and candidates over the past year, the growing tend of early and absentee voting, and the enhanced time and resources dedicated to get out the vote (GOTV) efforts by Democratic candidates. As in 2000 and 2004, voter turnout will again be a critical factor in deciding the outcome of the Presidential election. When combined with the significant advantage in Democratic political ads on both broadcast and cable outlets, these efforts will most likely draw increased turnout from both traditional Democratic constituencies and new groups of voters.
Current national polling and polling in contested congressional districts demonstrates that going into the elections, these efforts have thus far been widely successful in placing Democratic candidates in the role of frontrunner in several key congressional districts and battleground states. With the national political mood shifting left, the Democrats have taken advantage of the resources and enthusiasm of its base to develop formidable political infrastructure.
Though there is still time before the election, the combination of electoral focus on the economy (a perceived Democratic strength), superiority of resources, and early voting in large numbers, it will be difficult for Republicans in congressional and presidential races to dramatically alter the playing field to regain initiative in advance of the November elections. Though some polling data indicates races will be closer than current numbers reflect, it is clear that at this juncture, the Democratic brand is preferred to that of the Republicans.
In advance of our Post-Election analysis, Sonnenschein’s political team has highlighted the key races at the federal level, and offers a snapshot of the current trends in a number of races across the country. Next week, we will offer an outlook for state level races as we head into the final week before election day.
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