With only four state primaries remaining and Labor Day as the traditional kick off of general election season, this week we will examine some of the issues that may impact the 2014 elections.
To date, most of the advertising from Republicans has centered on the negative impacts of health care reform while Democratic ads have largely accused Republicans of a "War on Women," generally focused on abortion rights and contraceptive access. While these issues will continue to be themes for both parties, there are a number of other factors that are likely to impact voters as well.
The most powerful of these issues going into November is the great disdain that Americans feel towards Congress and Washington. Not only are approval ratings for Congress at historic lows, but Americans' confidence in their government's ability to solve even small problems has shrunk to nothing. The party that is able to show voters a way out of the morass is likely to come out on top.
This summer has seen the development of several international crises that have brought foreign policy into the election discussion. As American prisoners are beheaded in the desert on TV, pro-Russian rebels shoot passenger planes out of the sky and the Israel-Gaza conflict wages on, Americans feel increasingly uneasy with our place in the world. A border crisis with thousands of unaccompanied children coming to the United States brings that anxiety closer to home. Combined with the lack of confidence in Washington to solve ANY problem, those tensions and fears can certainly end up impacting votes if one party or the other finds a compelling way to talk about them.
Back at home - immigration and health care policy are still making waves. With the ongoing border crisis, discussion on immigration reform is here to stay. With rhetoric on the issue touching on everything from racism to national security to economic prosperity, emotions around the issue are very raw. If President Obama changes deportation regulations and is seen as giving amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, the electoral implications for 2014 and beyond could be enormous. In October, many insurance providers are expected to announce new rates for health care policies purchased on the state and federal exchanges. If they include significantly higher premiums, it could have an enormous impact on the results in November. If they are minimal, it makes it appear that the new system is working as intended and could help soften the fallout for Democrats.
The issue that gets lip service from candidates on both sides of the aisle is the issue that consistently ranks higher on polls than any other voter concern: jobs and the economy. For an economy that has been in "recovery" for almost six years, workforce participation is low, wages have been stagnant or lower than before the recession and economic confidence remains a very real concern. Candidates who are able to express an understanding of these anxieties and outline a path to improvement are likely to find themselves rewarded.
As confidence in Washington to do ANYTHING is at its lowest point ever, very real anxieties exist in areas of domestic economic conditions and international conflicts that raise questions about our foreign policy. With these huge free-floating anxieties hanging over the electorate as well as potentially big changes on hot button issues like immigration and health care premiums, the issues that drive votes in November have the potential to be significantly different than those we see in political TV ads today.