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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Looking The Wrong Way

Elections are won and lost, generally, not on matters outside the country concerned, but on domestic issues: not for nothing did Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign use the strapline “It’s the economy, Stupid”. And that is still the case in the USA: while those of a right leaning persuasion were lauding the address to Congress of Israeli PM Binyamin Netenyahu, and writing down Barack Obama’s stature, the important game was being played out in New York’s 26th Congressional District.

Because here, in a Special Election held in a usually Republican leaning area, the GOP lost. After 90% of precincts had reported, Democrat Kathy Hochul held a six point lead over Republican Jane Corwin. It’s possible that a Tea Party candidate split the GOP vote, but the big issue coming out of the contest is the attempt by Republicans in the House of Representatives to reform Medicare.

That reform, to turn Medicare into a voucher system, is part of the debt reduction plan put forward by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, but it is also deeply unpopular. Ryan, along with most of his party and the right leaning part of the Fourth Estate, is apparently blind to the fact that reversing the Bush era tax cuts would do far more to reduce the deficit than his budget plan.

The focusing by Democrats on a measure that the electorate don’t like could be not only the first chipping away at Republican proposals, but also signal the kind of campaign that will be fought in next year’s general election. It’s one thing to whip up popular sentiment against the supposed ills of “big government”, but quite another when the reality of cuts affects voters.

Forget the foreign policy froth: as in 1992, it’s still the economy, and it’s still about the hopes and fears of ordinary Americans. Some pundits need to keep their eye on the ball.

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