I feel like this is going to be an interesting election year. On the one hand, all the fundamentals favor the GOP. The economy is down. The Presidential Party normally loses off-year elections. The Democratic Party won a ton of marginal seats in the 2006 and 2008 wave elections, and those seats would be difficult to hang onto under any circumstances. The terrain is very Republican-friendly.
Political scientists are generally rather sneering about the idea that the daily political play-by-play actually effects election results all that much. It's fundamental, macro issues (most notably the economy) which drive results.
Yet, this year, we might see a test of that hypothesis, given just how far to the right the Republican Party has decided to drift. It's not quite like the Republican Party decided to run a whole slate of Alvin Greenes, but it's close.
In state after state -- Kentucky, Nevada, Florida, and most recently Alaska -- GOP primary voters have spurned mainstream, electable candidates for folks on the furthest of the right-ward fringe. And it's turning states that should have been easy wins for the GOP into bona fide targets for the Democratic Party. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) should be dead in the water, but for the fact that 66% of Sharron Angle's own supporters regret having nominated her. Joe Miller's apparent knock-off of incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has possibly put that Senate seat into play. In the Florida gubernatorial race, former prohibitive favorite Bill McCollum couldn't get past Rick Scott in the primary, and Democratic nominee Alex Sink has to be smiling given that McCollum apparently won't endorse Scott. A similar story prevails in the Florida Senate race, as Charlie Crist's independent bid after getting forced out of the GOP primary by Marco Rubio has thrown the entire race into flux (for the record, I'm a Charlie Crist fan, and have been since well before he dropped the GOP label). And so on and so forth.
So this is an interesting year. It really tests the question -- are fundamentals everything? Are there candidates so extreme that they can -- not just on a case-by-case basis, but systemwide -- check against the natural political gravity which is pulling hard against the Democrats this year?
It'll be interesting to find out. (Although I can't say I'm excited. Call me risk-averse, but I'd prefer a strong chance of mainstream Republicans winning than even a 50-50 chance of some of the nuts we're talking about getting their hands on the levers of power. Sharron Angle may have given Harry Reid a breath of life, but it also means we have a non-negligible prospect of Senator Sharron Angle. Scary.).