Everything in Moderation
I came across an interesting piece over the weekend (linked to The Daily Dish), which argues that the upcoming midterm election could provide an opportunity for moderate Republicans running for Congress in New England to make a significant comeback, courtesy of the tea party-fueled, anti-incumbent sentiment supposedly sweeping the electorate. Front and center in the article is none other than our own Charlie Bass, the former U.S. Representative who is running to regain his old seat in the second district of New Hampshire.
The article echoes some of my earlier analysis of Bass, in particular the instrumental nature of his current firebrand conservatism, and his not inconsiderable political talent for tacking strategically with the prevailing ideological winds. The author also seconds my prediction that Bass will move to the center in the general election as needed, in order to better compete for a significant portion of the district’s independent voters.
As I have continued to consider the dynamics of the second district race, however, I’ve begun to wonder about just how much Bass would actually need to adjust his political positioning for the general election. If, as is quite possible, the fall contest is primarily about issues like jobs and the economy, federal spending and the deficit, taxes and the reach of the federal government, then Bass may be able to simply continue campaigning with the populist language of the tea party movement. In that case, we would be treated to a former six-term incumbent running a general election campaign fueled by anti-incumbent sentiment.
The underlying assumption in this scenario is that independents have clearly shifted to the right on these issues (some useful confirming data here), thereby requiring less of a rhetorical adjustment by Bass than might otherwise be required in a more typical election cycle. He is already pretty well-known as a moderate on social issues, so those won’t likely trip him up, and they won’t play much of a role in the district’s campaign discourse in any event. Where Bass ends up ideologically may be somewhat affected by the kind of campaign run by his Democratic opponent (either Ann McLane Kuster or Katrina Swett), but current political (and economic)  conditions could instead keep Bass right where he is.
Note:  I'll be away tomorrow, and back posting on Wednesday. -Dean

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