Column: 10 tips to help you follow the mid-term election campaign

On your mark ... get set ... demonize and define!

Labor Day marks the political season's unofficial start in a country where the REAL political season is actually 24/7 and closer to some 300 days a year (minus holidays).

Get ready to read a lot of spin, ideology-anchored analysis aimed at promoting partisan fortunes, and polls that will influence the conventional wisdom - and perhaps some voting.

Some tips:

1. Both parties want you to have selective amnesia: Republicans are working mightily to shift blame for the ailing economy on the Democrats and to get voters to forget about the Bush administration's role. Democrats are pointing to Bush and downplay or spin disappointing results from their own policies. This is akin to how both parties blamed each other for the 9/11 attacks when history shows both parties were negligent on terrorism.

2. The mainstream press loves narratives: Key narratives are the declining fortunes of the Democrats and Obama and far-out Tea Party movement candidates. Comments and events that fit within this narrative will get more prominent play - which influences later coverage.

3. Watch independent voters: If it looks as if the Democrats are starting to halt or reverse independent voter defections, it may mean the party is stemming political bleeding.

4. Barack Obama is not doing Chicago-style politics: If Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley politicked like Obama, Daley would have wound up Dog Catcher (if that).

5. The mainstream media is increasingly circumvented: GOPers Jan Brewer, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul and Sharon Angle are avoiding the mainstream media and communicating through social media and friendly ideological interviewers such as Fox News' Sean Hannity. This means they're not being held accountable or fact-checked.

Preaching to the choir can be successful if choir members are in the majority in voting and nonchoir members decide not to show up.

It's about shoring up the base, and it's working

6. If the Dems lose one or both houses, it will be a big loss to them and Obama: Ignore any other spin.

7. If the Dems hold onto both houses, it will be an upset: Ignore any other spin.

8. Ignore newspaper editorials: Newspapers are downsized, ailing and most readers now read tons of Internet opinion before they read editorials. Their influence has declined as venues offering opinion and analysis have increased.

9. Follow a solid pollster: Gallup finds minority and young voters are tepid on the Democrats and that anti-Democratic sentiment is fueling a seeming upcoming GOP tsunami.

If this came from an ideology tainted pollster, I would shrug.

10. Be skeptical of ideological analysts: Forgo getting worked up by political predictions issued by ideological political prognosticators such as the entertaining Dick Morris, whose predictions have sometimes been to accuracy what a banana split is to dieting.

Follow a reliable political crystal ball reader such as the University of Virginia's Larry Sabato.

Sabato predicts a virtual rout for Democrats on Election Day. He analyzes from the standpoint of political science, not political cheerleading or partisan propaganda to bolster one side and/or discourage the other.

It may be oh, so 20th century, but Sabato and some others are still doing serious, stand-back analysis.

And so far NONE of the tea leaves - pardon the expression - look good for the Democrats.

Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He is editor-in-chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates.