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October 26, 2006

The Pendulum Swing

George Wenschhof

Less than two weeks remain until voters decide who will be their representatives in Maryland local, state, and federal offices. The statewide campaigns for governor, comptroller, and attorney general as well as the U.S. Senate have spent the most money and generated the most interest.

For the next two weeks a Maryland voter can not watch TV, listen to the radio, or pick up their mail without seeing, hearing, or reading an O'Malley, Ehrlich, Cardin, or Steele advertisement telling them for whom they should vote - with negative advertising still the marketing method of choice by the candidates.

Nationwide questions continue to abound with regard to the Republican-Bush administration. There is the continued quagmire in Iraq, a questionable energy policy, and Foley-gate that the Democrats are trying to use to their advantage in this mid-term election.

Meanwhile, the Republicans continue with their effective message that they will keep you and your family safe from terrorism. They also will cite a recent reduction in the national debt, and record highs on the Stock Market as additional reasons to "stay the course."

Will the Democrats pick up the needed five seats in the Senate and the 15 seats in the House to regain the majority position in Congress? The pendulum has swung in the direction of the Democrats even though a strong national message as to what Democrats would do when in power has failed to emerge.

Individual Democrat candidates are running on their own with the main message being "Have you had enough of the Bush administration?" In the current political environment, Democrats will pick up seats but a majority in both chambers will be tough to obtain without spelling out a clear direction as to how - and where - Democrats will lead our country.

The pick up of five Senate seats by the Democrats is possible with five states (Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Montana, and Rhode Island) extremely close.

Four states (Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and New Jersey) are also tight and the outcome could determine the majority party in the Senate. In Maryland one poll, released by Survey USA on October 18, had the Steele v. Cardin race tied at 46% and Martin O'Malley leading Robert Ehrlich by six points for governor. This is curious because the voter registration in Maryland is 2 to 1 Democrat.

It is intriguing to see the closeness in Tennessee and Missouri, for these two states have been considered safe Republican seats. Also a Democrat win in Ohio could send another strong signal to the nation, for it was this state that many felt tilted the 2004 presidential election to George Bush.

Bucking the trend is Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, an incumbent Democrat who lost in his primary to Ned Lamont only to resurface as an Independent for the General Election. Senator Lieberman was depicted in the lead up to the primary as having supported President Bush's Iraq policy and lost to Mr. Lamont, a political newcomer. However, Senator Lieberman now has a slight lead over Lamont with less than two weeks to go until the election.

Some giddy Democrat leaders are now also boldly predicting pick ups of 20+ seats in the House. Jockeying has already begun as to which Democrat would chair important leadership positions in the House and the Senate. Howard Dean, the chair of the Democratic National Committee is breathing a little easier after battling House and Senate re-election committee chairs as to which campaign strategy Democrats should implement in this mid-term election.

What does all of this mean? With close races all across our country it is clear that many people feel a need for a change. Democrats should be mindful that election 2008 is just around the corner and two more years of political infighting is not what the voters want to see.

Should Democrats recapture the House - or the Senate - they need to understand that voters are tired of the divisive rhetoric that the two major political parties have engaged in for the last couple of decades. This approach has caused political gridlock and increased animosity in our country. Political leaders are needed who will provide straight answers to our problems which will bring people together, not push them apart.

Voters want their politicians, once elected, to represent all Americans, not just the members of their political party. They want their elected representatives to work together in developing solutions to our problems and to keep the United States a respected nation around the world.

Some of the Issues and the mistrust many Americans hold today pertaining to elections will not be resolved until true campaign finance reform is instituted, which includes equal media time. Fundraising expertise should not be the determining factor as to who our elected representative will be.

Also reform in the manner an Independent candidate appears on the ballot is needed. Currently, the process for a member of a party other than a Republican or Democrat is overbearing and does not project the positive message our country should be sending to voters in regard to our election process.

Will Maryland resist the pull of the pendulum and re-elect a Republican governor and elect a Republican senator for the first time since Sen. Mac Mathias of Frederick? We will know soon. Although our voting system needs reform, it is still the best in the world today. Make sure you vote!

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