TIM SKUBICK: Voters boot their local representatives

For decades a rather quirky trait was alive and well out there in voting land. The electorate never much liked the government at the state or federal level, but somehow, they gave a pass to their local representative.

“I like Congressman “X” but can’t stand the government,” citizens would often tell the pollsters.

That was based on the notion that the voters knew their person in Congress. He or she walked in local parades, helped the average Joe navigate problems with the federal bureaucracy and generally was around to offer a helping hand. What’s not to like?

Spoiler alert. That was then, and now is now.

As Bobby Dylan likes to sing, “The Times They Are A Changin’.”

Peter Hart the respected national pollster has been poking around and discovered a jarring reversal. Sixty-three percent of the voters now want to “give a new person a chance.” That’s up 16 points since last August.

Or put another way, if you are an incumbent there is no guarantee that you will be one after the next election. A “toss-the-bums-out” attitude may be sweeping the country and this state.

Let’s see: Has anything happened to drive the numbers south in Congress?

If you need to see the list, you have not been paying attention. Think government shutdown and go backward from there. And neither party is immune.

Republicans took it on the chin for boarding up the government and impacting thousands of lives, but that’s fading. The Democrats are taking their lumps over the not-so-impressive roll-out of the president’s national health care system. In fact, the recent polls suggest, it’s a huge liability for Democrats who backed Mr. Obama. They are pleading on bended knee to their boss to give the citizens more time to sign up. In the biz they call it a CYA move.

The 63-percent figure to pick someone other than the current office holder is the highest it has ever been. Back in 1993, 47 percent wanted a change, and in 1992 it came in at 62 percent. But Mr. Hart has discovered other stuff.

Forty-five percent would like to see a Democratically controlled congress, 41 percent want the GOP to call the shots and 14 percent are not sure.

Clearly the voters favor a divided government. Fifty-eight percent believe it would be better if different parties controlled Congress and the presidency, which is exactly the way it is right now.

Congresspersons could improve their standing with the electorate if everyone engaged in making deals.

Sixty-eight percent of the Democrats in the poll want Congress to make compromises. Seventy-one percent of the independents do, too. Fifty-three percent of Republicans favor an injection of more bipartisanship.

Conservatives argue they should stick to their principles instead, and 47 percent of the Republicans agree. Twenty-three percent of the Democrats concur, but only 18 percent of Independents find that attractive.

If the Hart numbers are spot on, it’s a wake up call to incumbents of all stripes. The shoe-in re-election status they enjoyed over time may be a thing of the past as the previous shoe-in may be used to boot them out.