From the Editor: Summer Reading

Posted July 27, 2012 at 9:40am

This Friday, when House and Senate leaders plan to send their colleagues home for the summer, will be the 95th day before  Election Day. That means fewer than 14 weeks left in a campaign that has seemingly been going on for almost two years — essentially since the last campaign ended.

Incredibly, at least to those inside the Beltway who get paid to decipher the daily babble out of the Capitol, little if any of the partisan rhetoric has been fully processed by the electorate yet. That’s supposed to start happening during the next five weeks.

The 406 Congressional incumbents seeking new terms and the 11 House Members seeking to move to the Senate are all eager to get onto the stump — fully aware that Congress’ awful public approval numbers (16 percent this month, says Gallup) mean a potentially uphill climb. Their challengers are equally eager to see the lawmakers arrive home, because that should make them easier to beat up on. And aspirants for the 11 open Senate and 51 open House seats are eager for the voters to start paying them more mind.

But what, precisely, will they all be talking about? That is what this issue of Outlook illuminates. It’s designed  to be a lay version of the issue briefing books the candidates themselves have started toting from Rotary Club to fish fry and back to the commuter rail station, knowing they’d better have it dog-eared before Labor Day.

As CQ’s deputy executive editor for news, Randy Wynn, explains in the opening story, this campaign to control Congress is tied to the presidential race as much as ever before. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both want a referendum on the incumbent’s stewardship of the economy, and most downballot candidates are happy to stake their own fortunes on that outcome.

And so, in the main, Congressional aspirants are focused on convincing voters they and their party have the more credible formula for spurring job creation and economic growth.  And as much as ever, they are talking about taxes and whether leaving rates alone would do the economy more harm than good in the long run.  Stories here unpack the arguments on both sides and offer examples of races where the disagreements might prove most pivotal. There are also explainers on other issues (from immigration to Israel, health care to energy) that look to be  playing subordinate but nonetheless influential in the dozens of tossup races that may yet turn on a tangent.