According to the Washington Post (and the ever-buzzing blogosphere), America's 2006 midterm elections just might be swayed by a new contingency of awkwardly-named, pissed-off female voters: "mortgage moms".

The mortgage moms are, really, yesterday's "security moms" - the swing bloc made up of married women with kids, whose worries about terrorism made them "an essential part of Republican victories in 2002 and 2004".

The thing is, the security moms have morphed; nowadays, they're older, wiser and - worried about losing their homes, their healthcare and their gas-guzzlers - much more left-leaning. This vital group of voters - a huge "factor in many of the most competitive suburban districts on which control of Congress will hinge" is, according to the WaPo and the Pew Research Centre, "more inclined to vote Democratic than at any point since September 11 2001".

Jeffrey Birnbaum and Chris Cillizza define today's mortgage moms as downwardly mobile, middle-class "voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze".

Who isn't "freighted with anxiety" about money these days? I don't have a mortgage and I'm not a mom yet either, but the notion that usually solvent middle-class families are stressing about money rings uncomfortably true. Everyday Americans aren't exactly rolling in the bucks lately. With wages flat (according to the Post, hourly incomes are "down 2% from 2003"), exorbitant gas prices (up 20% from 2005 ), and skyrocketing mortgage debts (up 97% since 2000), the fast-disappearing middle class is, understandably, more than a little worried about their declining quality of life.

And their frustration could lead to a much-needed voting-booth boost for Dems at the polls. As Ezra Klein at the American Prospect observes:

"Democrats have been pointing at these [falling economic] trends for years, but the data and the polls both show that 2006 has seen them accelerate until they're really torturing the average American ... Republicans have dealt with this as some sort of psychological dysfunction, assuming that if you just explain reeaaallllyy sssslllooowwwlllyyy how glorious the economy is, voters will come around."

Of course, that's not the case. Though mortgage moms wouldn't qualify as poor by any stretch, they are unhappily losing some financial stability (like most Americans, except the richest of Bush's oh-so-elite-and-untaxable crowd). They feel uneasy, like they are taking steps back when they should be moving forward. As Chris Cillizza explained on NPR:

"Most [of them] said ... 'We're not in dire economic straits.' But what they said is, 'We're one step away from being in dire economic straits.' It's that level of unease that could be very potent for Democrats if they'd tap into it."

But are Democrats managing to "tap into it," reaching out to these women in time for the elections? While Republican candidates continue to rely on national security - not the economy - as their key issue to attract voters, Dems have been focusing largely on the public's growing misgivings about the Iraq war. (In a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 61% of Americans "disapprove of the way President Bush is handling the war"). Voters' concerns about job creation and the economy are strongest in the heavily affected midwest, so Dems' campaigns in states such as Iowa, Wisconsin and Indiana are more likely to rely on those issues.

The national impact of the midterms remains to be seen, but it is, without a doubt, a make-or-break season for the Dems. And if they're smart, they will take the make-or-break voting clout of the "mortgage mom" bloc into major consideration when wrapping up their campaigns.



Captcha image