CORRUPTION, BLEH. Markos makes an important point about the Bilbray-Busby race outcome and what it all means:
The "culture of corruption" is a nice secondary theme to weave into our broader narrative, but it can't be the message on which we pin our 2006 hopes. "We're better managers" won't inspire our troops to head to battle.
I'd have to agree. People don't really care all that much about corruption. Congressional corruption, like corporate corruption, is the ultimate "people somewhere else doing something complicated to other people somewhere else" issue. It is intangible and not something voters can see and feel in their daily lives, like immigration or gas prices. Tangible issues will always beat intangible ones. That most voters already think that congresspeople, of both parties, are kind of crooked means that the corruption and lobbying scandals also lack the essential ingredient of newness.
My '06 prediction: Corruption will be an issue that moves voters most in those races where the person accused of corruption is running for re-election. But where the corrupt person has already resigned or been forced from office, as in CA-50, the problem will be considered "dealt with" by voters, and attempts to tarnish the replacement candidate as also corrupt or a lobbyist will be viewed as playing politics, not as making serious charges. In districts where neither candidate has any direct ties to corruption or lobbying scandals, the corruption issue will help the candidate who paints him or herself as being of the cleaner faction, but not be enough to win election without some galvanizing appeal to voters on more tangible, emotional grounds, as well.
I realize that this is a bit of a counter-CW assertion. But a recent poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner of 1,000 likely voters in 68 swing congressional districts, two-thirds of which are held by Republicans, for MoveOn.org found the corruption issue is just not at the top of voters' minds. "About half the voters are listing corruption as the top issue as are listing the war in Iraq," MoveOn Washington director Tom Matzzie told a meeting of progressives yesterday. That's especially the case among base Democratic voters -- those most likely to turn out in off-year elections, or special elections like the one in CA-50 yesterday.