Kent Bush: Not expecting predicted GOPocalypse
Let me tell you what you learned on Tuesday night.
You learned nothing.
The same people who claim to see a pattern forming for the November elections can also connect seven randomly placed dots and see the Mona Lisa.
In science, when a desired result leads to the misinterpretation or hyperinterpretation of data to help support the result, it is known as junk science.
All of the pundits who claim to have a clear picture heading into the fall races are guilty of practicing junk political science.
Arlen Specter lost in Pennsylvania. It's a big story. But is it a part of an anti-incumbent storyline or an isolated event? I think it has one leg on each side of the fence.
Specter was a longtime incumbent. But he was running for the first time as a Democrat. For 29 years, he voted as a Republican. Last year he flipped the switch.
To fit the script, Specter would need to have been beaten by a Tea Party candidate - or at least a conservative Republican.
Instead he lost in a primary to a more liberal Democrat - Joe Sestak.
I'm not even sure that an anti-incumbent sentiment won the day. Remember, Pennsylvania's Democrats are accustomed to voting against Specter. He could be tied as easily to George W. Bush and Sarah Palin as he could Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
It was an interesting election but certainly no signpost.
Others have pointed at the only interparty vote that determined a new Congressional Representative to take the seat of Jack Murtha who recently died.
Mark Critz, the Democrat, won in a district that voted for John McCain in 2008. So does that mean the Democrats will withstand the GOP charge in 2010 and maintain their legislative stronghold on Capital Hill? Not so fast.
Critz won. But his main platform was to push back against the Democratic legislative agenda. He was anti-health care even to the point of running ads saying that he would have voted against it as a sitting Congressman. Obviously, he never stood naked in a shower with Rahm Emanuel. I doubt he would have voted against the measure. But he said he would and it helped him to win the race easily.
So this isn't exactly a bellwether race either.
The one race that seemed to fit under an umbrella was Rand Paul's huge primary win in Kentucky's Senate election.
The son of Ron Paul who has received solid support among Tea Party activists and ultra-conservative voters won even more easily than expected.
But once again, the Tea Party's success came at the expense of the Republican establishment. Paul's opponent was a leader in the Kentucky GOP.
His success showed that voters in Kentucky were ready for new voices.
But the effect of the Tea Party activism in November is harder to predict.
There aren't many Democrats wearing teabag lapel pins and worshipping at the altar of Sarah Palin.
So when the elections are no longer one conservative knocking off another, what will happen?
Like many recent elections, the height of the tide will depend on Independent voters.
Those 20 percent of unaffiliated voters will make the difference on election day.
Every race will have its own set of factors that will play into the national debate and - sometimes - override it.
But there does seem to be an anti-incumbent sentiment. That is not surprising during an economic downturn. The Tea Party is having an impact on elections. But will that impact sweep Democrats out of office in November?
I don't expect the GOPocalypse that many are predicting. But I hope the Democrats can figure out a way to deal with a bipartisan Congress because the majorities in both houses will probably shrink.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the newspaper.