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Outlook: Campaign 2012

Few Americans are hearing the detailed policy backstories behind the Capitol’s daily partisan brawl. Congressional candidates will spend the next month trying get voters to start buying their version of events.

Campaign 2012: The Target-in-Chief

When Mitch McConnell declared shortly before the 2010 midterm elections that his top priority was preventing President Barack Obama’s re-election, it seemed like an obsession rather than a logical focus for the Senate Minority Leader. But for the past two years, top Congressional Republicans have indeed kept their focus squarely on criticizing the Democratic president — and have even found ways to intensify their critiques during the current campaign season.

Job Creation: The No. 1 Issue, With a Bullet

Washington, which cherishes its civic and political traditions as much as any capital, has recently found a new ritual in which to participate. On the morning of the first Friday of every month, the Congressional leaders of both parties solemnly await word from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on how U.S. employment fared in the latest month. And within seconds of the jobs report’s release, at 8:30 sharp, an intense sparring match breaks loose, with Democrats and Republicans eager to put their spin on the number of new payroll positions created (or lost) the previous month and the new unemployment rate.

Taxes: Parties Confident in Their Policies

Tax policy is almost always one of the biggest issues in Congressional elections. But rarely, if ever, has it been more prominent than this time. Unusual circumstances have made it so. It’s simply impossible to ignore the fact that tax cuts enacted a decade ago and worth trillions of dollars are set to expire at the end of this year.

Health Care: The Justices Underscore a Divide

California is not exactly the epicenter of the controversy surrounding the 2010 health care law. None of the lawsuits that led to the Supreme Court’s decision last month upholding the law came from the West Coast. Unlike so many other governors, the state’s chief executive, Democrat Jerry Brown, has supported the law and plans to implement it. Other issues, particularly the economy, are dominating the political discourse there.

Immigration: Courting the Hispanic Vote

Illegal immigration is not a topic that often comes up when national politicians visit Virginia. So it was something of a surprise to hear President Barack Obama address it so forcefully during a speech in Virginia Beach in the middle of the month.

Energy: All for All of the Above

The message of the advertisement that’s been running on New Mexico television in recent weeks is anything but subtle. As children quench their thirst on a black liquid emanating from school water fountains, a narrator identifies Heather Wilson as the culprit.

Foreign Policy: Seeing an Opening on Israel

Normally, foreign policy doesn’t figure too highly in Congressional races, where parochial, or at least domestic, matters dominate. But this year, Republicans are making support for Israel a major issue in several competitive contests in an effort to take Jewish votes away from Democrats — and in the process, gain control of the Senate and stabilize their majority in the House.

Transportation: Clash of Congressional Cultures

Congress may have finally, after years of torturous delay — and even a brief summertime shutdown last year — passed reauthorization bills for the Transportation Department and the Federal Aviation Administration, but that doesn’t mean infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges won’t be contentious topics in more than a few Congressional campaigns this fall.

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