Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Without a single result to report, I can already tell you what the 2007 elections will portend for 2008: Nothing.
For one thing, all politics seems especially local this year.
If Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher loses to challenger Steve Beshear, as expected, it will prove that pardoning nine members of your own administration is politically damaging -- nearly as damaging as having nine members of your administration in need of pardons. The results certainly won't tell you how Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton will do in Ohio or Florida.
You could search further down the ballot for elections that are better barometers. For example, Kentucky's competitive secretary of state race might show whether Bluegrass voters are angry at only Fletcher or Republicans more broadly. Virginia's legislative contests will be interesting too.
There's a fundamental problem, however, with using these or any elections to predict what will happen next year: Political time has expanded.
Political time, after all, is measured not in minutes or hours, but in news cycles. Way back when, Adams could have called Jefferson, "Ye olde Flip Flopper" and much of the country wouldn't have found out for weeks (it would have taken them even longer to figure our whether Jefferson was a Flip Flopper or a Slip Slopper because "f" and "s" looked the same back then).
Today? Mark Foley resigned from Congress just 13 months ago and, if it weren't for filler content at the end of Larry Craig stories, I'd have completely forgotten he existed.
More to the point, in November 1999, a Gallup poll showed Bush leading Gore by 15 percentage points. Gore, of course, ended up winning the popular vote a year later.
In November 2003, Kerry trailed Bush badly (he'd later gain the lead and then lose it again). At that time, Kerry's wasn't even the leading contender for the Democratic nomination or the second leading contender or, perhaps, even the third. Four months later, he was the presumptive nominee. This sort of volatility shouldn't be surprising when storylines shift multiple times a day.
Of course, there's still plenty to watch if, like me, you are genuinely interested in whether Bart Peterson will still be mayor of Indianapolis or Utah will approve school vouchers or Charlotte-Mecklenburg will keep its transit tax. Everyone else will just have to wait.
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.