Although it's Election 2013, the media have been talking non-stop about 2016. On the Democratic side, Hillary is right now the strongest Democratic candidate for President and a fundraising juggernaut--if she chooses to run. But remember what happened with all that infallibility talk on 2008. A certain junior Senator from Illinois with barely any grass under his feet snatched the Democratic nomination and presidency. Let's not underestimate the variables--the economy, if Democrats overreach as David Frum deliciously imagines in a 2016 crystal ball reading post in The Daily Beast.
On the Republican side, the man who forced The Government Shutdown, Ted Cruz, is fanning 2016 chatter because of several visits to Iowa, the state that holds the first presidential contest and gives a candidate political momentum.
A lot can happen between now and then, like today's election. Although off year contests barely register a pulse in the national media, this year is different because of some high profile races that could reveal a national political trend that I argue makes a compelling case for the political power of the so-called Center, as defined by a recent NBC/Esquire poll and which I write about in: Immigration Reform: Where's the Center?
In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe--Hillary and Bill Clinton campaign chair alum and former chairman of the Democratic National Party, is making his second bid for the governorship and is poised to win by a landslide over Republican and Tea Party darling Ken Cuccinelli.
It's flipped in traditionally blue New Jersey with Republican governor Chris Christie expected to beat his Democratic challenger by double digits. He is the case study of a political animal who has defied polls and political trends to follow his survival instincts. Case in point, he campaigned with New Mexico governor Susana Martinez who has little name recognition or skin in the New Jersey political game, setting off speculation that a Republican Christie/Martinez ticket could win Latino voters and the White House.
And this last part is the most important: the participation of Hispanic voters. On Election night 2012 when President Obama beat his challenger by 5 million votes, sweeping the Latino vote, a new political adage was born:
The road to the White House goes through the barrio and the bodegas of America.
I would add negocios since Hispanics open small businesses at more then twice the national average and escuelas since 25% of public school students are Latino.
But non-presidential election years are characterized by low voter turnout, even more so for groups who are key members of coalitions that win elections but aren't ballot box reliables who are older and white. Latinos and youth voters are "up for grabs" voters with numbers as a main advantage. If they mobilize, elections are a blow out for the winner, as was the case with President Obama was he was re-elected.
The question is:
Which voters will show up, galvanized by the government shutdown and near debt default brought to you by the Tea Party?
Conversely, will voters be so disgusted, they sit it out?
Primary races are where the soul of a party is bared for all to see. One of the valuable lessons Republicans learned in 2012 is that a candidate who tacks too far to the right jeopardizes the general contest.
The off-year races--such as 2013--will give us a good gauge of voters' moods.
But will it give us an accurate read of what will happen in 2016?
Click below to watch my participation on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd with Gaggle roundtable guests Robert Costa, Washington editor of the National Review and Democratic pollster Margie Omero of Purple Strategies as we gab about 2016. This segment aired on October 25, 2013:What will voter turnout say about the current politics and the future?