There’s a catch phrase used by political junkies like me that’s probably unfamiliar to most folks. It’s “down ticket.” It means any – or all – of those folks running on a political party’s slate of candidates on your ballot, seeking offices lower than the name at the top. This year, that would mean anyone below the office of President of the United States. Congress, legislature, county commission or dog catcher. All would be referred to as “down ticket.”

The national media – by virtue of the word “national” – doesn’t often mention these junior offices. Too many to keep track of. Many so-called “local media” don’t say much about “down ticket” because a lot of them don’t understand how our elective or even the two-party systems really work. They just report numbers someone gives them.

But people in politics – especially those lower on the party ticket – know what the phrase means. And how important it is to their futures to have a strong candidate at the top. Or in the slot just above their name. “Up ticket” as it were. Because there are still too many voters who go top to bottom on their ballot – never changing to the other party. Thank God, there are fewer of them. But they’re still out there. And there are the Independents and moderates who pick and choose. Like me. A lot of ‘em.

If your local legislator, county commissioner or dog catcher is a true Republican, they may be very concerned this year. Oh, they might not say anything about it. But, trust me, many of ‘em in this country are worried. Because no matter how competent, successful or proficient they might be in the conduct of their respective offices, they’ve got a mess at the top. Above their name.

Democrats had problems “down ticket” during Bill Clinton’s re-election run. Several state legislature’s saw Republican gains as Democrats were tied to a top-of-the-ticket candidate with personal “issues.” He won but some county courthouses changed hands. Legislatures, too. I’d guess it even affected a dog catcher here and there. The phenomenon is not exclusive to either party.

No one – repeat no one – is going to come through the omnipresent GOP presidential mess unbloodied. Whoever comes out of the Florida convention will be damaged goods, wounded from head to toe and you’ll have heard all the bad stuff he’s said, has been said about him or what he’s advocated a thousand times over. That’s not good news “down ticket.”

This year, Republicans have created many of their own problems. They did it when state committees changed primary dates and strung out the campaign far too long. They did it when they couldn’t produce a single candidate at the top with voter appeal to anyone but the zealots who control the national party machinery. They did it several years ago when moderates allowed themselves to be expunged from national – and most state – GOP party control.

Oregon and Washington’s GOP legislators probably have less to worry with the “down ticket” phenomenon. Both groups are moderate enough to attract the necessary Independent and other swing voters. And in Idaho – ah, Idaho – Republicans come in only two flavors – right and right-er – though they did stick their foot in a bear trap or two this year with women.

But in big states – California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Florida – you’ll likely see some of this “down ticket” influence if you check out legislative and local races. Could change party control in some statehouses and more than a few courthouses. GOP to Democrat.

If all this seems a bit arcane or unimportant consider: where did all the sudden legislative anti-abortion action come from in so many states this year? Why do more than three dozen states have bills in process requiring women to have ultrasounds or vaginal probe exams if considering an abortion? How was all this coordinated to sweep the country in the same three month period?

My guess: the American Legislative Exchange Council and a one-size-fits-all bill matrix. And how do states get representation on the board of that national group? To run it? To decide things like what party agenda items get promoted coast-to-coast? Check ALEC Board’s majority party: GOP. And the ALEC Board’s current political flavor? Right. Very far right.

If “down ticket” fallout over displeasure with the 2012 presidential candidate at the top is widespread, some statehouses and legislative majorities could change from Republican to Democrat. And, in a year or two, that would affect the outlook – and political views – of that ALEC Board where a lot of this nation’s legislative bills are born. You’ll excuse the word.

“Down ticket.” You might not be familiar with the term now. But on November 7, 2012, it might seem a lot more important. Especially close to home.

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