Wednesday, January 06, 2010

What to Watch for in 2010, Part One

By Marc Korman.

A year ago I listed five things to watch in 2009. Here is a fresh list for 2010. This list is not intended to be the top five political stories of 2010, just five items of interest for MPW readers.

1. Who Runs and Who Wins in the Primaries to Watch?

Thanks to Democratic dominance, the real election stories in 2010 will be Democratic primaries (unless Bob Ehrlich runs). Some primary challenges have already begun such as Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey versus Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Former Delegate Cheryl Kagan versus State Senator Jennie Forehand, and Dana Beyer versus the District 18 Delegation. But many more are being considered or rumored including Delegate Saqib Ali versus State Senator Nancy King, Delegate Roger Manno versus State Senator Mike Lenett, and perhaps most interesting, some type of Former Prince George’s County Executive Wayne Curry/Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan combination versus Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown.

You always have to favor the incumbents, but every challenger I mentioned here and the others who have not yet appeared will work hard to upset conventional wisdom and get elected. Who wins, who loses, and what it all means will be the big story come September.

2. How’s the Council Split?

Yes, I know that Members of the Council like to point out that 90% of the votes are unanimous and that any divide over growth was rendered moot by the recession. Well I’m not buying it. If you want to know why, just ask Roger Berliner. His quest for the Council Presidency came long after the recession began, and technically ended, and was a far cry from a unanimous vote.

A divide exists and council challengers running in 2010 will be picking sides either publicly, by courting endorsements of sitting Council Members and their backers, or privately, by providing assurances to interested parties that they are with one side of another. I will leave it to Adam to call out which candidate stands with which faction, but after the primary election we will know which faction, if any, will be running the show for the next four years.

3. What is the Unemployment Rate?

The unemployment rate is a deceptive statistic, but an emotionally charged one. Hovering around 10% right now, the unemployment rate has not been this high since I was in diapers (summer of 1983 for those who really want to know). The number, fairly or not, is probably the biggest driver of President Obama and the Democratic Party’s political standing at the mid-term elections failing a national emergency on par with 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina. If the unemployment rate is heading south, approval ratings will be heading north and vice versa.

The unemployment rate usually publicized, sometimes called “headline unemployment,” is deceptive in two ways. First, it fails to really define the problem because it does not account for those no longer searching for jobs and the underemployed. Second, it is tough politically because it is essentially impossible to measure what the unemployment rate would have been if certain actions were not taken including the TARP program or the stimulus package.

Next time, we will look at two more things to watch for in 2010.