What the Midterms Are Really About

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It's become pretty clear that voters will punish Democrats this November and usher in a new wave of Republican legislators. It's not so clear why voters want to do this. Is it the anemic economy? A backlash to the Wall Street bailout? The health care reform bill? Four pundits lay out their theories for November's midterm elections:

Only after the Democrats won the election did the full impact of the disaster kick in. On Inauguration Day, the jobless rate was 7.7 per cent. A month later, when President Obama signed the stimulus bill, unemployment was 8.2 per cent, and by the end of the year it was in double figures. The most recent report, for September, puts it at 9.6 per cent. Last month, people at the National Bureau of Economic Research announced that, the way they define recessions, this one ended sixteen months ago. The way actual people experience their actual lives, it most certainly did not.

Obama is no more to blame for the Great Recession than F.D.R. was for the Great Depression. But the longest and deepest mass suffering has occurred with Obama in the White House and Democrats holding a majority in (if not always in control of) our two national legislatures. That—more than tea parties, more than Fox News, more than the scores of millions of anonymous corporate dollars poured into negative campaign advertising courtesy of five Justices of the Supreme Court—is why, next Tuesday, the Republican Party is overwhelmingly likely to retake the House of Representatives outright and, at the very least, to augment its share of seats in the Senate enough to make its veto power absolute.
  • It's About the Wall Street Bailout, writes Ross Douthat at The New York Times:
Nothing in this election season, no program or party or politician, is less popular than the Troubled Asset Relief Program of 2008 — a k a the Wall Street bailout... It was TARP that first turned Tea Partiers against Republican incumbents, and independents against Washington. It was TARP that steadily undermined Barack Obama’s agenda, by making activist government seem like a game rigged to benefit privileged insiders. And it is TARP that’s spurred this campaign cycle’s only outbreak of bipartisanship: as of September, Politico’s Ben Smith noted recently, the two parties had combined to spend about $80 million on attack ads that invoke the bailout, with the Democrats alone accounting for $53 million of that spending.
  • It's About Health Care Reform, writes Clive Crook at Financial Times: "Most of the voters who oppose it do not merely dislike it, they loathe it. Republicans are campaigning against the reform and Democrats in competitive seats, when they are not telling voters that the measure needs repair, are silent on the subject. Healthcare reform has become a serious liability for President Obama and his party." Jeffrey Anderson at The New York Post agrees:
Above all else, the coming election is about ObamaCare.The evidence is clear. Look at House districts where you'd expect a Democrat to be vulnerable -- districts that, based on results in the last three presidential elections, lean Republican or lean Democratic by no more than 5 percentage points. In 48 such districts where polls are available, a Democrat is running for re-election.

Based on the Real Clear Politics averages for those polls, Democrats who voted against ObamaCare are now ahead in 10 of 15 races (leading by an average of 5.5 percentage points) while Democrats who voted for ObamaCare lead in just 9 of 33 races (losing by an average of 2.5 points). ...

None of this can be explained by the economy or by other controversial votes.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.