There are dozens of issues that energize American voters in every election. We can hear several of them in the present long build-up to the 2008 elections. 70% of America thinks “we are on the wrong track” right now. I have a great deal of sympathy with some of this feeling. Yet at the same time we have strong to moderate economic growth, a low 4% unemployment rate and a stock market that has been going upward for about three years.
Polling of voters who are not firmly committed Republicans or Democrats, i.e., those voters who will decide the next election, tell us that these voters have “deep concerns” about virtually everything on the political radar screen. When “extremely important” and “very important” are combined in the total poll numbers then well above 50% of these independent voters say issues like health care, the economy, terrorism, immigration, taxes, corruption and, quite obviously, “the situation in Iraq,” are all major issues.
Daniel Henninger called this “the worry wart vote” in his July 5 Wall Street Journal editorial. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who just may run for president as an independent, is talking about this "worry wart vote" a lot. He thinks Washington is dysfunctional and he can fix it. He even has the money to run his own campaign, much like Ross Perot did when his candidacy helped elect Bill Clinton in 1992. So much for the impact of the McCain-Feingold legislation for getting big money out of the equation. You can only get $2,300 from a donor but you can spend millions of your own money. Something is clearly wrong here.
Henninger suggests that “deep partisan division” is a great issue except for one thing: 9/11/01. Recent plots that have unfolded in Glasgow, Scotland, and then terror plots that were foiled in London and at JFK Airport in New York, all serve to remind us that we will not live in a world far removed from terrorism for quite some time. Then we just learned that Al Qaida is stronger than ever on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. All of this does not likely mean that this will be the only issue on people’s minds come 2008 but I am quite sure that when all is said and done this issue, the threat of terrorism, will matter the most to those who are neither Republicans or Democrats. Henninger notes that Bill Clinton ran in 1992 by reminding himself every single day that: “It’s the economy, stupid!” This time no one should be surprised that the 2008 election will quite likely be about terrorism. You don’t have to be a political science professor to figure this one out.