Earlier this week, senior Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2014. More and more legislators have opted for retirement in the past few months- Baucus's being the most recent and it comes within a week of his "no" vote on the Manchin-Toomey bill to expand federal background checks for firearms. Is there a connection between the two? While this question may be difficult to answer, his retirement left me pondering about the upcoming mid-term elections and how important they are.
Democrats have announced they will defend Baucus's seat in Montana. So far, there is speculation former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer will run for the seat. Each seat is a battle for the majority in our bicameral congress and this seat is no exception. These seats are important for partisan advantage which is why Democrats are so adamant in keeping it. Montana is a more conservative region and they are hoping to hold on to their majority in the senate.
There are many election methods utilized by both parties to hold on to these precious seats. One of the most effective and deceptive are scare tactics. While some stray away from the truth such as the NRA's campaign against the recent gun legislation (expanding background checks will lead to a federal data base of gun owners), some prove to be informative and partisan based. For example, during the 2010 midterm elections US News reports that Democrats, in campaign ads, vowed to protect Social Security benefits for seniors. They tried to remind voters of the Bush era idea of privatizing Social Security. The Republicans touted Democrats as big spenders and proponents of big government. They also tried to scare people with the threat of tax increases imposed by Democrats. This is a perfect example of half-hearted fibs. The tax increases Republicans were referring to were to be imposed on the top percent of earners - not the "common man." They also tried to accuse Democrats as being soft on immigration and border security. Despite the fact that some scare tactics fall short of the truth, it is a very effective method of campaigning and appeasing partisan lines. It is a way to express issues and define where a candidate stands but can be dangerous if it is intended to hoodwink American voters with false claims.
Another aspect of the upcoming elections to be wary about is one-issue elections. Certain issues can drive an entire election cycle and have been the root of victories in some cases. For example, Jesse Jackson Jr.'s Illinois congressional seat. In the Democratic primary, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Super PAC poured an astonishing $2.2 million dollars against former congresswoman Debbie Halvorson reports Politico. In previous elections, Halvorson championed her "A" rating from the NRA as a positive. In past elections, that was a plus for a Democrat to gain votes from more conservative voters but her challenger (and winner of the primary) Robin Kelly used this against her. Kelly used the popular rhetoric of the times to her advantage, virtually making the primary boil down to one issue. In the end it paid off and she has now moved on to face her Republican challenger.
The 2012 Presidential election, for all intents and purposes, was a one issue election focused on the economy. Despite having debates strictly aimed at discussing foreign policy agendas, each candidate did not shy away from mentioning our economy and quips regarding remedies. Voters were most concerned with the economy and it was the driving issue for most of the campaign cycle.
Robin Kelly used hot button issues of the present to her advantage. Currently in Massachusetts, Congressman Ed Markey is following suit in ads for his run for the senate noting he is backed by Planned Parenthood in the hopes of stealing votes from an entire demographic away from his challengers. Many politicians try to harness these hot button issues to sway entire demographics to their side and alienate their challengers. Gun control is without a doubt the biggest issue today and it will be interesting to see how each side approaches it. Those on the left will attack individuals with "A" ratings from the NRA and those who have voted favorably for the gun lobby while those on the right will bill themselves as protectors of the Constitution and your "God-given right" to bear arms.
The last mid-term election gave birth to the Tea Party. I am interested to see how the announcement of several senators' retirements will affect the balance of power in congress and how each party will fight tooth and nail to defend those seats in order to maintain their precious power and influence in the legislature.