The other day I got a call from a New Jersey area code. I missed the call the first two times, and on the third call I answered. It was a lady running a survey for the Feingold campaign. She asked me which of the following issues was most important to me: 1. Jobs, 2. Health Care, 3. Social Security.
I answered health care. She thanked me and asked if I would promise to contact my friends and tell them to vote. I said whatevs.
According to polling, my political priorities likely put me in the minority among like-minded voters, and my position is even further away from the mainstream among swing voters and those who do not consistently vote (the people the pols are trying to reach).
Gallup's most recent poll on the top issues for midterms show that economic conditions are by far the most important factor for voters. Most Democrats cite it as the top issue, as well as 43 percent of independents, compared to 17 percent of Indies who say health care is the most important.
The data displays what we've known for a longtime about midterms: They're a popular way for voters to register anger over recession. Reagan and Clinton suffered horrible losses in their first midterms in response to their perceived inabilities to revive poor economies. Both presidents both recovered afterwards and generally came to be associated with economic growth.
After the Republicans make gains this November, they will try to push the narrative that their victories are about a vindication of right wing ideology, including a rejection of social insurance programs and financial regulation. They've already started. The facts simply don't support that notion.
If Americans were so cool to "big government," then they'd be willing to entertain the repeal of Social Security and Medicare. And Republicans would be much more popular. As it stands today, the GOP is no more popular than the Democratic Party although its base is motivated, the average voter has very little faith in the GOP devising an alternative plan to get jobs back.
But they're mad anyway. And the party in power will pay dearly.
Just look go to Polling Report. The first poll on the 2010 elections asks voters who they think will best lead the country in Congress. 30% say the Dems, 29% say the GOP and 34% think it won't make a difference. And yet, the GOP leads by large margins in the next poll, which asks respondents who they plan to support.
As much as the Tea Partiers love to talk about health care and other major Democratic policies, for the average voter, these issues themselves don't inspire anger as much as they offer a distraction from the most important issue: the economy. Just as Bill Clinton's failure to pass health care reform convinced voters he had wasted time on issues less important than the revivification of the economy, Obama's passage of health care reform has made some voters worry that it has come at the expense of lowering unemployment.