- Who the GOP Nominee Is – Do I really need to waste your time by writing anything here? Only until the GOP nominee is clearly known, can we size up the presidential race. As we move past each primary or caucus contest and see candidates drop out, the race changes each time. Will the GOP select a candidate that has a chance to win over key voting blocks such as Hispanics, young voters, independents, suburban voters or will they select a candidate that is too conservative to cobble together large enough coalitions to win in November?
- When the GOP Nominee Becomes Clear – A much better item to talk about. Will it be Romney after wins in IA and NH? Will it be Romney in Mid-March? Will it be one of the current contenders around June? Or, will it be someone not currently running in IA or NH who makes this really, really, really interesting? The deadline to get on the ballot has passed in a rapidly increasing number of states and many more have tough signature requirements in a short time period. Arguments can be made either way, but I have always preferred to have a primary or a long-lasting process that provides attention to the candidate I support. So, if you are a Republican, hope for a drawn out nomination process like we saw in 2008.
- Economy – Without a doubt, the #1 issue of this election will be the economy (jobs, unemployment, grocery and gas prices, retirement accounts, stock market, etc.). Around a mind-blowing 80% of voters list an economic-related issue as the top issue facing the country. Getting 80% to agree on something in this country is simply amazing. Any candidate at just about any level that talks about something else is clearly not talking the top issue to the overwhelming majority of voters. Sure, talk other issues to a focused audience, but talk about the economy everywhere else.
- Control of State Houses – Will the Democrats be able to gain back any of the 24 state legislative chambers that moved away from their control following the 2010 and 2011 elections? With gridlock on Capitol Hill, control of the State House is more important than ever.
- Who Votes – Will voters under 30 come out in big numbers again? Will Hispanics? Will African-Americans? I bet the voter turnout numbers go up for nearly all demographic groups compared to the 2008 election so the real question for these key groups is who they will vote for and at what support level? The impact of these key groups will decide countless elections across the nation.
- Independents are the Real Kings and Queens – This was proved in the OH Issue #2 and #3 ballot contests in 2011 and will again be the case in critical states like CO, FL, NC, OH, VA at the presidential level. Tracking these voters will give you a heads up on who will win many key races.
- Mobile Advertising – As smartphones have become nearly as common of an accessory as a belt, the ability to use a smartphone to communicate a political message will explode this year. Credible messengers willing to establish a mobile communications relationship with voters will see a long term positive impact.
- Social Media Activity – Clearly competitive campaigns at all levels will take advantage of using social media outlets such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to communicate, but how many voters will end up being influenced by social media activity compared to other medians? For a long term impact, understanding how to influence using social media is key.
- U.S. Supreme Court Decision on Health Care – With a court date this summer and a possible decision, bringing this highly charged issue to the forefront will have an impact on the message and tone of races across the country for at least a few weeks. Look for the emotions of this issue to spill out and possibly lead to a low point in the cycle.
- Election Law Changes – While none are likely to generate anywhere near the same attention as the 2010 Citizens United vs. FEC case did, you can expect activity concerning how our elections are run. Look for discussion/changes on Voter ID, early voting, citizen redistricting commissions, recall elections and campaign finance laws. Process and rules are important and most of this activity will happen at the state level.
- Anti-Incumbency Factor – Voters are fed up with both parties and the political gridlock in Washington, DC. Disgust with Congress’ behavior could lead to an election where voters unseat current legislators. This could result in another large group of freshmen representatives in the U.S. House. Could the next Congress begin work with around 150 members with no more than two years experience?
- WI Recall – Democrats currently have 507,000 of the 540,000 signatures needed to hold a recall election of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R). Recall of a sitting governor could set a precedent used in other states.
- Luck Lands In Indianapolis – With the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, my Indianapolis Colts select Andrew Luck of Stanford to eventually take over for the best QB of all-time, Peyton Manning. Sorry, I mixed my personal list with this political list, but the real point here is that there will be a lot of people paying attention to non-political events before they, hopefully, focus on the elections throughout the year. For most voters, especially independent/swing voters, they will be paying more attention to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London; to family events like weddings, graduations, births and deaths; the one or two major world events that will unfortunately happen (terrorists attack, natural disaster, etc.); finding a job or even moving than they will to political candidates.
Continuing with the theme I used two weeks ago of listing events/stories that will have an “impact” on this cycle and quite possibly beyond, this list will be made up of the impactful events to keep your eye out for in 2012.
There is a time for politics and a time for governing. The time for politics is over the time for governing is upon us.