An election-season cliche that’s not as overused or as inaccurate as “momentum” but that still causes confusion is discussion of midterms as “nationalized” or “localized.” In some respects it’s just another name for the ancient argument between those who think elections are determined by “fundamentals” and those who stress internal campaign dynamics; where the confusion really comes in is in connection with the notion that this or that midterm cycle has been “nationalized” (or not), as though it’s an entirely external phenomenon like El Nino.

In any event, my weekly column at TPMCafe dwells on how individual candidates push for “nationalized” or “localized” comparisons, and stress personality and biography (more conducive to “localized” elections) or issue contrasts (encouraging partisan and ideological choices that don’t have much to do with individual campaigns). Fortunately, the campaigns of Joni Ernst of Iowa and David Perdue of Georgia provide a classic illustration of the two strategies, and their practical convergence, with both candidates trying to get across the finish line before the distorted image of themselves they’ve presented gets twisted back into recognition by voters.

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Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.