Voters vent anti-establishment anger, Maryland forecast unchanged
The turbulent midterm election year continues, with primary voters dumping Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, threatening to unseat another (Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln is in a runoff) and giving tea partiers their biggest victory yet.
Those were the latest warning shots at the establishment in the nation's capital, which figures to look different after a frustrated and angry 2010 electorate is done venting its feelings in November.
But the anti-Washington message, while clear and consistent, doesn't really change the political forecast for Maryland.
Only one member of the state's congressional delegation is imperiled, freshman Rep. Frank Kratovil. A Democratic victory in the special election for the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha's southwestern Pennsylvania seat cheered Democratic strategists, but that situation bears little similarity to Maryland's First District.
“For all of their bluster about building a national wave this year, including RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s guarantee of victory for Tim Burns, Republican policies were once again rejected when it came time to face the voters," Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.
The vote was seen as a vindication of Murtha's pork-barrel style of politics and a nod to the memory of a man who represented the area for 36 years.
It also was a reminder (Rand Paul's victory in Kentucky was another) that voter hostility is bipartisan this year.
The economy stinks. Americans are outraged and they're worried, about their jobs and the future. Recent national surveys peg the favorability of both major parties at record or near-record lows, with no advantage to either side at the moment (a relative gain for Republicans, but nothing that would guarantee success on Election Day).
Those are potential danger signs for any challenger -- Bob Ehrlich is the most prominent in Maryland -- who hopes to win by merely riding an anti-incumbent wave.
Nothing in Tuesday's results changes Ehrlich's status as the underdog in his bid to replace Gov. Martin O'Malley, particularly since he can't claim to be an outsider like Kentucky's Paul. At the same time, he's still got more than five months to shake things up and make a strong case for a change in Annapolis.
As for the recent post about over-interpretation of Tuesday's results (go back to the main Maryland Politics blog page, and scroll down), check out Politico.
Among the overheated analysis you'll find there: "GAME CHANGE: THE ACTIVIST WINGS IN BOTH PARTIES HAVE OFFICIALLY WON -- THEY DON’T NEED WASHINGTON ANYMORE...This is a stark and potentially durable change in politics. The old structures that protected incumbent power are weakening."
Also: "[T]he outcome [in the Pennsylvania special for Murtha's seat] casts serious doubt on the idea that the Democratic House majority is in jeopardy."
Well, maybe. And maybe not.
Republicans still have a decent chance of picking up the House, in the view of independent analysts.
As for incumbent protection, both parties are already firing up their gerrymandering computers and plotting state-level deals to protect House members of both parties when new lines get drawn after this year's census.
The multitude of built-in incumbent campaign advantages--fat campaign checks from lobbyists and special interest groups are only the most obvious--are continuing to flow.
Even in the fabled 1994 turnover election, 90 percent of House incumbents won. Only once in the last 34 years has that figure fallen below 90 (all the way down to 88 percent).
We'll post the 2010 score here after all the votes are counted this fall. We'll know then whether this midterm is a truly historic game-changer (the phrase that became popular in the overhyped '08 election year) or merely a give-back of Democratic gains from the last two national elections.