Sometimes, election years get focused on certain races to tell the story of the cycle. It is too early to tell what the stories of the next cycle will be, but here are two possibilities.
In Pennsylvania, recently re-minted Democrat Arlen Specter has said that he is not shifting his position on card-check, aka the Employee Forced (nee Free) Choice Act. SEIU and AFL-CIO are already pressuring Specter to cave by, among other things, encouraging Rep. Joe Sestak to run against him, in a race in which card-check would be a central debate.
Ironically, the 200,000 people that became Democrats, making Specter’s GOP primary impossible, are likely Specter voters in a Democratic primary. As the Democrats have become more affluent, moderate tolerant, and less labor-dependent, the power of organized labor may not be so large.
What if the Democratic primary became a referendum on card-check for Democrats? How important — really — is card check to Democrats? With Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Rahm Emanuel, etc., all weighing in on the anti-card-check side. Wouldn’t that be funny. Wouldn’t a Specter/card-check victory be a decisive defeat for the unions? This race could become nationalized in much the way that the Lieberman race was in 2006.
Similarly, I can see a fight in New Hampshire over gay marriage in the general. The legislature has passed easily reconcilable bills that legalize gay marriage legislatively. It is likely that the governor will neither sign nor veto them, bringing the law into effect.
But New Hampshire is different than Massachussets and Iowa, where gay marriage has been created by judicial fiat and seems unlikely to be reconsidered due to the ballot initiative processes. It is also different than neighboring Vermont, which just legalized gay marriage by legislative action. This is a dead issue in Vermont.
But you could imagine a battle in the general election in New Hampshire over gay marriage. Democrats had not controlled the state legislature since 1874, and some of these seats could swing back. After all, in 2006, we lost, as Time put it, "91 state legislature seats, six of [our] 16 state senate seats and both [our] congressional seats". And gay marriage would undoubtedly play a role in a number of swing seats around the state and be a nationalized campaign. Money would flood in from around the country for both sides.
My gut is that gay marriage will not be a compelling issue in New Hampshire, but this will be the only serious opportunity for pro-traditional marriage forces to defend their position at the ballot box. They probably cannot afford to pass it up.
Aside from all the questions about the ability of the GOP to comeback and the future of the redistricting process, 2010 could be quite fascinating.