Just about everything you'll hear coming out of Washington starting now is really about November's midterm election. The gravitational pull of the midterms was already apparent last year, as Republicans marched in perfect lockstep to vote against whatever the president and Dems proposed -- Republicans always have authoritarian discipline on their side, which is why they're Republicans -- but you haven't seen anything yet.
The Dems have enough votes to enact health care -- the hurdle Bill Clinton failed to jump, contributing to the Republican takeover in 1994 -- but when it's enacted, expect the spin machines on both sides to be at full throttle. And because health-care legislation won't be implemented for another three or four years (depending on whether the House or Senate versions prevail), Americans won't be able to test the veracity of these wildly divergent claims. So don't count on health reform to help Dems next November -- nor harm them, either.
Foreign policy is just as unlikely to tip the scales. Sad to say, absent a draft, most American families will read about American deaths in Afghanistan much the way they've absorbed the U.S. body count in Iraq -- as news items rather than personal tragedies. Nor will Iran's nuclear capabilities, North Korea's missile launches, Pakistan's tumult, or Yemen's terrorists have much electoral effect -- unless terrorists commit an atrocity in America or on American travelers. Needless to say, China's decision about whether and how much to revalue its currency, although important, will affect the votes of about three Americans (and I think I know all of them).
Issue Number One -- the overriding concern that will determine more than anything how many seats the Dems lose next fall -- is jobs. If unemployment is 10 percent or more next November, the Dems are in danger of losing the House and will almost certainly be short of the 60 votes they need in the Senate.
More after the jump.