Used to be this state was a little more predictable.
The tide is turning, but it is an unpredictable tide with an anti-incumbency undercurrent that can be exploited by either side. As we saw in the local elections in the odd year cycle, a little bit of organization and the fervor of anti-incumbency can lead to big changes.
The Wake County school board race is a prime example of how a little bit of money – OK, it was a lot by recent standards, but not that much to the parties involved – can go a long way in the current climate.
Wake is being seen as an example of a resurgent cultural conservative movement. That’s too simple. The movement in Wake County is certainly solid, but it is hardly a typical grassroots operation. It’s heavily organized and financially well supported. (The group that the elections ushered in is also having a hard time governing.)
The school board elections were all about getting a solid turnout among the cultural conservatives, anti-tax advocates and disaffected voters ready to vote out the incumbent. This is certainly a strategy that many will try to duplicate in the 2010 cycle, but not every incumbent is a target for every one of the groups.
Effect on Senate Race
The big question for Democrats in 2010 is whether the power of anti-incumbency will pay off in the race at the top of the ticket. One indication that there is a strong anti-incumbency current is recent polling by PPP that shows Burr at only about 55 percent in his own primary. No doubt like many in the GOP he’ll face some kind of energized challenge from the right.
It’s also worth noting that the seat that Burr holds traded hands often in the past few decades, so he’s battling not just the new wave of anti-incumbency, but one that is much older and manifests itself in North Carolina by rotating this particular senate seat.
Another indication that something is in the air is evidenced by the Democratic side. Elaine Marshall, the better knows of the candidates and probably the most progressive, is outpolling her closest opponent by a wide margin. That’s led to a interesting shift in the discussion on the Democratic side.
Until recently, Cal Cunningham has come across as a more centrist candidate. He has started to stake out progressive positions on financial reform.
We’re likely to see a far more populist race for the senate seat than one would have thought last year. Moving to the middle is increasingly seen as being a part of the inside game in Washington.