To be honest, I have always been dismissive of the notion of a truly bipartisan, anti-incumbent year, not that there haven’t been years when incumbents deserved to be thrown out. We have come to expect that when we predict that a certain party will get destroyed in an election, their consultants and party officials will try to sell the argument that incumbents on both sides, not just theirs, will get hurt. It’s never right, but nothing says it never will be.
There are several scenarios that could lead to a bad night for incumbents. For instance, it’s not hard to imagine this happening if political turbulence and instability in the Mideast and North Africa continues through November 2012 while at the same time the booming economies of China, India, and other emerging markets continue to drive up oil prices. As of Monday, AAA’s national survey of gasoline prices showed an average price of $3.83 a gallon, 97 cents more than a year ago and just 28 cents short of the record high average price of $4.11 a gallon set on July 17, 2008. We’ve never had gas prices stay high for very long, but if they did, voters’ patience with all manner of incumbents could wear thin.
Similarly, if Washington fumbles around on raising the debt limit, incumbents of all stripes could be in trouble. It is hard to find a smart and serious authority on world finance and economics that isn’t warning of near apocalyptic results if the debt ceiling doesn’t get raised.