Michael Zimmer: Ready to upset some apple carts

Gallup polling is one of the trusted names in that industry. Its results for May 8 to 11 national polling caught my eye, especially its three top responses for what Americans consider the most important problem facing our country.

Twenty percent of respondents agreed that unemployment was the top issue of the day. Those who wish to trumpet a so-called economic recovery taking place would seem to face a good deal of skepticism among ordinary folks.

Coming in at number two with 19 percent of responses was dissatisfaction with government. Recent in-fighting by our county commissioners makes me wonder whether Carroll County had a healthy statistical sampling with this response. Last Sunday's Carroll County Times story about the board's latest violation of Maryland Open Meeting law would be one illustration of this dysfunction.

The economy in general was the third highest response, with 17 percent naming that their top concern. I'm not sure there's really much difference between low unemployment as a chief issue and the economy in general being named.

If our national economy was growing in a robust manner, it seems logical that we would be experiencing strong job creation and rising household salaries. Instead, we are experiencing nationally relatively poor job growth and declining average household wages.

When we look across the nation to determine which states are doing well and which are doing less well, one clear pattern seems to emerge.

States embracing private sector economic prospects such as Texas and Wisconsin are thriving. Population is flowing into states like those. In contrast, states like Illinois and California are hemorrhaging jobs, business opportunities and population. Such states have emphasized tax hikes and increased regulatory burdens.

The results seem to speak for themselves.

One would think the Gallup results would favor Republican prospects in the November general elections across the ballot. However, November is a long way off in the sense that events can develop that would change this GOP favorable dynamic.

Republicans have a rather deep division between those embracing a more tea party outlook and those oriented to more of an establishment set of views.

To the extent the GOP emphasizes issues that tend to divide Republicans, they can certainly revive prospects for Democratic candidates. One issue that comes to mind in this category is immigration reform. That was tied for last place of chief concern with 3 percent of respondents.

Another way I can see Republican candidates fumbling the ball one yard from the end zone would be if they failed to be solution oriented. I can imagine some GOP candidates would be tempted just to point fingers of blame and not offer serious policy initiatives. That sort of prevent defense leaves me cold.

One last way for the Republicans to blow their prospects this year would be for gaffe prone candidates to gain national prominence. We have seen examples of this in the past, where one candidate's blunder tends to blunt GOP prospects in a broader perspective.

Historically, Democratic candidates for statewide office have done extremely well in Maryland. It will be interesting to see whether a national wave of discontentment with entrenched powers might actually upset some apple carts in our fair state.

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