In mid-October, three headlines from around the country on the same day gave a clue. While the Chicago Tribune reported that the environment wasn’t figuring at the national level, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Detroit Free Press reported that in New Mexico and Michigan, environmental issues could tip the balance. Similar coverage has come from Nevada, Maine, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. While Maine doesn’t appear to be in play, the other states all are, for a total of 42 electoral votes.

At least in this electoral cycle, all environmental politics are local, but they may add up to significant national impact.

Where to go with this?  Every day, 7 days a week, 365/6 days a year, newspapers are covering stories around the country about how environment is affecting people’s health. Little stories, big stories. Local. National. Human interest. Scientific revelations. Corporate misbehavior. Scandalous coverup. Bureaucratic shenanigans.

Stories about times and places where the steps needed — and eminently feasible — to protect people’s health just aren’t being taken. And also, examples (albeit fewer) of when the right thing was done, problems were eliminated or avoided.

These stories aren’t about far-off places (although there are those, too …). They’re about what your family is breathing and your neighbors are drinking. The nasty ingredients in cosmetics that aren’t disclosed. The unintended consequences of making consumer goods out of plastics that contain biologically-active molecules, turning on genes when they should be shut off, or preventing them from making proteins you need to resist disease.

About how all this is making people sick … or worse.

So here we are, at the end of an electoral cycle in which in at least a few places, environmental issues, particularly related to health, may have affected the results.

It’s the end of this one. Wednesday begins the next.  If the hints we have now prove true, then the stage is set for environmental health to emerge as a much bigger issue in 2008.

[For more coverage of this cycle, go here.]