Some good news for Democrats on the front page of USA Today. And believe it or not, it doesn't even contain a pie chart. The article is an overview of the 2006 elections, and the congealing conventional wisdom that Democrats are rushing towards an outright victory in both the House and the Senate. Professional prognosticator Stuart Rothenberg is quoted saying that libs will pick up the 15 seats necessary for control of Congress, while eminent Congress-watcher Thomas Mann says they'll take upwards of 20. In the Senate, the fight seems tougher, but here too USA Today releases polling showing that Democrats lead in Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio, and Minnesota, while Republicans might be able to hold Missouri. And that doesn't even mention potential pick-ups in Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.
It's worth counseling caution, however. Elections happen in November, not late August, and that's a distinct blessing for incumbents. The Summer months bring higher gas prices, more violence (in Iraq and at home), higher gas prices, harsher weather, and more high gas prices. Those are painful trends for incumbents, but they universally ease as autumn settles across the land. That isn't to say that cool climates will provide relief to the embattled GOP, but this might not be the most representative moment from which to draw predictions.
Nevertheless, Bush's non-bounce from the foiled plots in London and the skepticism towards his new Iraq speeches point in a more optimistic direction, towards a country that's grown deeply weary of this crew, and not simply annoyed over temporary conditions. Most worrisome for the GOP, but less talked about in the media, is that wages are largely stagnating even as inflation picks up. Health costs, energy prices, mortgage rates, and all the rest are easily outpacing salary growth, the realization that voters hate this unequal economy is beginning to dawn, and with it, an understanding that folks have real reason to be upset. While Congress dithers over gay marriage bills and endless Iraq resolutions, Americans are losing their health care, seeing the interest rates on their variable mortgages skyrocket, and generally losing economic ground -- and their president and politicians seem uniformly uninterested in addressing the decline. That's sparked an enduring resentment, one that won't fade with the heat.