Turnout Will Be Decisive Nov. 2.jap

September 13, 2010

For release noon Sept. 14 and thereafter (656 words)

As it turns out, the biggest issue on Election Day won’t be tax caps, Evan Bayh’s open Senate seat or Republican hopes of regaining a majority in the Indiana House. It will be turnout itself.
By all indications, voter enthusiasm Nov. 2 will dictate the outcome of all of the above.  If Democrats have a lackluster showing at the polls, if “Tea Party” conservatives turn up as expected, and if property taxpayers stick to their guns, the following will happen:
• Indiana will amend the Constitution to guarantee permanent property-tax caps.
• Dan Coats will take back the U.S. Senate seat from which he walked away in 1998.
• Brian Bosma will replace Pat Bauer as Speaker of the Indiana House and Republicans will get to control the important redistricting process that occurs following each decennial census.
Here’s a sampling of pundits’ predictions with the election six weeks away.
Republicans will win a majority in the U.S. House. A turnover of 39 seats would tip the House in the GOP’s favor, and Cook Political Report projects a Republican net gain of at least 40 seats. Cook is an independent, non-partisan newsletter with a high post-Labor Day accuracy rate in predicting congressional contests. Its prediction hinged on Barack Obama’s plunging approval rating among independent voters – in the 40 percent range around Labor Day.
“The outlook for Republicans in November is very good — at least as favorable as in 1994 and possibly more so than at any point since 1928,” according to Jay Cost of the Weekly Standard. Cost attributes this to a convergence of three things: Obama’s economic stimulus plan falling short of expectations, the growing budget deficit and the passage of an unpopular healthcare bill.
Minority and young voters, who had significant impact on Obama’s election in 2008, have “reverted to previous levels of interest in voting in the context of midterm elections,” said Gallup Poll. In contrast to 2008, when whites and blacks were about equally interested in the presidential election, whites are more likely than blacks to be thinking about the 2010 elections: 42 percent versus 25 percent.
Primary turnout during the spring and summer showed far more excitement among Republicans than Democrats and this will carry over into November, said Rhodes Cook, senior columnist for Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a prognosticating tool of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Typically the party that wins the most total votes in a year’s primary elections goes on to win the general election.
Although the race between Republican Coats and Democrat Brad Ellsworth to replace Bayh has been described as a toss-up for months, Crystal Ball now lists it as leaning Republican. So does the FiveThirtyEight blog written by number cruncher Nate Silver.
One wild card in Indiana is the constitutional amendment on the ballot that would cap residential property taxes at 1 percent of a home’s assessed valuation, 2 percent for farmers and 3 percent for businesses. There’s been virtually no public campaign against the amendment, so it’s unlikely the issue will affect turnout one way or the other.
In 1978, California voters turned out in near-record numbers – 69 percent — and passed a tax cap called Proposition 13. The turnout was the highest in an off-year election since 1916.
That won’t happen here, said Aaron Smith of Watchdog Indiana, because controversy over skyrocketing taxes died down when lawmakers put statutory caps into place. The amendment makes existing law permanent. “When Proposition 13 took place, there was not a legislative fix. In Indiana, the caps are the icing on the legislative fix.”
Noting that the caps received broad bipartisan support in the Legislature, Smith said the Republican turnout projections should nonetheless favor the caps. “Republican voters seem to be more energized. Those same energized voters, a great many of them, will favor the caps. That’s the conventional wisdom that I understand.”
If turnout turns out as projected, tax caps and Republicans will be big winners.

Andrea Neal is a teacher at St. Richard’s School in Indianapolis and an adjunct scholar with the Indiana Policy Review Foundation. Contact her at aneal@inpolicy.org.


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