A Sign In The Sky

Campaign billboards seem to be all the rage in the eastern part of Tennessee.  I’ve seen them for candidates for Governor and the statehouse.  Now that I think about it, I might have even seen one for a federal race.  Personally I have never really understood the point of a campaign billboard.  Sure they do raise visibility, but how many more yard signs could one get for the cost of a single billboard?  Billboards show that a campaign has money, but yard signs in peoples’ yards add the human dimension.  They indicate that the person who lives on or owns the property cares enough about his or her candidate to let his or her neighbors know of their public support.  Nevertheless, while driving through Hamblen County last month, one billboard caught my eye.  It displayed a smiling image of a statehouse candidate on one side and President Obama on the other.  The sign informed the reader that Larry Mullins was a Delegate at Barack Obama’s nomination convention in 2008.  The message was simple and to the point.  Larry Mullins is a Democrat who supports Democratic leaders like Obama.

The more I thought about the sign, the more it nagged me.  Do Democratic voters really need a rallying cry to support their candidate?  Wouldn’t a fairly rural community of approximately 60,000 residents have heavily supported John McCain over Barack Obama back in the 2008 election?  With this assumption in mind, I decided to check the Tennessee State Board of Elections website.  Sure enough, McCain won in a landside, 15,508 votes to 6,807.  Like in most areas of the country, I think it would be safe to assume that the President’s popularity has decreased since 2008, so that means an even greater majority of voters in Hamblen County would be against him.  It just didn’t make sense to me why the Mullins campaign would tie themselves to such a negative in the community like President Obama.

About an hour ago, I was out driving through Hamblen County and came across the vexing sign once more.  Finding a safe spot alongside the road, I pulled over and grabbed my camera.  It was possible that I remembered the billboard incorrectly.  If not, I could determine what organization or person was foolhardy enough to pay for this ad.  Upon closer inspection, here is what I found.

As you can see in the small lettering at the top of the billboard, the Tennessee Republican Party paid for the ad.  The sign doesn’t serve as a clarion call to Democrats but rather a grim warning to Hamblen County voters.  It is as if the sign reads, “Hey Hamblen County, you overwhelmingly rejected the guy on the right two years ago!  Larry Mullins, the guy on the left, strongly supported him then, so shouldn’t you reject him as well now?”

I doubt that few, if any voters in Hamblen County, Tennessee have given as much thought to this billboard that I have. I will admit, however, that it did give me something to ponder until I took the time to discover all of the details.  Although I still recommend against campaign billboards for the reasons stated above, maybe a few of them, like this sign in the sky, have some hidden value.

Letters from Nancy

This past week or so, my inbox box has been abuzz with emails from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The interesting thing is that the Democrats have been consistently writing that they will maintain their majority after the November election.  As Pelosi writes, “We will retain our Democratic Majority in the House because I have you in this fight”.  Now obviously she doesn’t have my backing, and I would expect the Democrats to suffer a strong backlash in these midterm elections in protest of Obamacare, a continually faltering and protracted conflict far beyond our borders, and the general weakness of the economy and the job market.

The historical trend is that the party in the White House will lose seats in both houses of Congress in midterm elections.  For example, when did the Democrats most recently gain control of Congress?  2006, during the middle of Bush’s second term.  After a forty-year drought, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives during Clinton’s first mid term in 1994.  Although there are exceptions, there have only been three times in the last one hundred years that have bucked this trend.  In the current cycle, according to Rasmussen Reports, Republicans have enjoyed a small, but uninterrupted, advantage on a generic ballot since June 28 of last year.   In addition, they report that the number of folks who identify themselves as Democrats have fallen to record lows.

Republicans will make gains in next months election, of that I am certain.  However, I am not unwilling to make the claim that this upcoming election will be a “slam dunk” for the Republican Party, nor do I think it necessarily should be.  Voters are in general fed up with politics and usual and until and unless one party (the Republicans) is consistently willing to stand for the Constitution and a limited government, the government will continually vacillate between the two parties, casting each aside in turn as they hope for something better.  We must reject politicians like Pelosi who claim first priority over our income, our general welfare, and even our children.  I don’t know who will be speaker after the November election, but given her very low popularity, 59% negative according to a yesterday’s Rasmussen Reports, I would expect that both Nancy’s reign and her letters are soon coming to an end.

Decision Day In Massachusetts

Today is a pivotal day in American politics as voters across Massachusetts head to the polls to elect a new Senator.  They will be filling the seat occupied for 46 years by Ted Kennedy.  Given the New England commonwealth’s reputation as one of the most liberal states (for example, they were the first to allow same-sex marriage), one would typically expect the Democratic candidate, Martha Coakley, to coast to an easy victory.  After all, a Republican has not held a Senate seat there since 1978.  Instead, she is in a statistical tie or even projected to lose.  The latest survey from InsiderAdvantage conducted on Sunday shows the Republican, Scott Brown, with a 9-point edge.  In addition to the two major party candidates, Joseph Kennedy (who has no relation to the famous Kennedy family) is running as an independent.

This race is important for several reasons.  First, like the Virginia and New Jersey Gubernatorial races before it, some people will claim that this election is another referendum on President Obama and the Democratically controlled Congress.  Far more critical, however, is the resulting makeup of the United States Senate.  With the current temporary Democratic appointee, the Democratic majority presently enjoys a filibuster proof 60-seat majority.  Should this seat change hands, Republicans can stall or kill all sorts of legislation including the controversial national health care bill.  Therefore, liberals and conservatives are taking special note of this election.  Funds and activists across the nation have been pouring into the state as each side scrambles to gain an advantage.   Even Barack Obama has made a number of campaign stops across Massachusetts in recent days, urging voters to support Coakley.

With turnout projected to be at least fifty percent, today’s vote should be particularly exciting in the Bay State.  All eyes are on Massachusetts as activists of all stripes eagerly await news of this critical special election.