Is the United States returning to the era of personal politics?
I wonder if there was ever a departure from it. If we are defining "personal politics" as being representative of individual interests over the betterment of the group, I would wonder if we ever really left it. American democracy has always been defined by personal interest or self-interest. Where things end up balancing out is that there are so many personal interests or investment in self-interests that this becomes a domain where one particular personal interest cannot fully dominate over others. In the end, there has always been a sense of personal politics in how government works in America. If we take personal politics to be personalizing issues in elections, I would again question if there was a departure from it. In the last fifty or sixty years, the personalized notion of the leader has occupied central importance in how Americans vote. The leader as being personally charismatic and one that must enable voters to gravitate towards them is something that has been a staple in American politics for some time and if there is a resurgence in it now, it is only because of more notice, not due to a shift in consciousness.
Personally, I would say that this particular election looks less influenced by personal politics than any I can think of. Instead of focusing on the personal qualities of the candidates, this election actually seems to be about a limited set of ideas.
In this election, people seem to be running based on whether or not they agree with the "tea party" set of ideas. You are either for "big government" and Obama or against it. Who you are as a person is much less important.
I think that personal politics may decline even after this election because of the new rules that allow unlimited spending on ads as long as they are not coordinated with a given campaign. These ads will focus mainly on policy and not on trying to promote a particular persona for a candidate.