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In 1837, the United States suffered a major economic panic as a bubble caused largely by rampant land speculation burst. Banks imploded, unemployment soared, and the Democratic Party, which controlled Congress and the presidency, took a major beating in the years that followed. In the midterm elections of 1838, the Democrats' main opponent, the Whigs, picked up nine seats in the House. Two years later, Martin Van Buren, the sitting Democratic president, got the boot. According to historians, these were the first major examples in American history of angry voters punishing the dominant party for the state of the economy.
It's a phenomenon that has played out time and time again since then and, obviously, there are tempting parallels to the present. Democrats control Congress and the White House, only a year and a half ago banks were in free fall, and unemployment is high. What the economic climate means for November's midterm elections is the talk of Washington.
Americans may very well "vote their pocketbooks," as the saying goes, but the voter anger and frustration could also work against incumbents, Democratic and Republican alike. And after a year in which healthcare reform was the major story, and in which Democrats have seen their base grow disillusioned by compromises and setbacks and Republicans have seen their ranks split by the Tea Party movement, it's clear that these and other key issues will remain fresh in voters' minds.
Here is a quick look at some of them.