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US midterm elections: Trump’s agenda at stake

Michael Hernandez

With just four days until millions of Americans head to polling stations across the US, President Donald Trump is on a mission. Trump is set to continue a campaign blitz in battleground states pivotal to Republican success in the US midterm elections that will see him embark on trips to Montana and Florida on Saturday and Georgia and Tennessee on Sunday.

The intense electoral push will be capped on the eve of the Nov. 6 polls when Trump will visit three states in one day – Ohio, Indiana and Missouri – in a sign of how important these races are for a president seeking to fulfill his legislative agenda with just two years left on his first, and possibly sole, term.   The president’s travel schedule is based on internal White House planning first made public by Bloomberg and is subject to change.  But parts of the schedule that have already come to pass have squared with the president’s visits.

Republicans currently hold a razor-thin one-seat majority in the Senate, and while their hold on the House of Representatives is far firmer, it is most threatened in that chamber.  The party and the president can ill-afford to lose either part of the bicameral legislature. Every House member’s seat will be up for grabs in this fall’s elections, as will just over one-third of Senate seats.

Whether Trump will prove to be a boon or an albatross for the Republicans is unclear amid predictions of a possible blue wave, or massive legislative inroads for the Democratic Party. Democrats are seeking to seize on discontent that has fomented among some segments of American society following Trump’s successful 2016 White House bid, particularly those who take issue with his personal life, controversial policies — notably his hardline immigration crackdown and efforts to roll back the US’s universal healthcare law — and unorthodox approach to the American presidency. With less than a week until Americans cast their ballots, the Pew Research Center found that wide segments of both Republican partisans –  73 percent – and their Democratic counterparts – 77 percent – say which party controls Congress is a factor in how they vote.

Each group of partisans expects their party to control the House of Representatives following the midterms, with 77 percent of Democrats saying they expect their party will control the chamber following the polls, compared to 82 percent of Republicans who expect the same. Pew tracked what it said is the highest level of voter enthusiasm in the past two decades as over two-thirds – 67 percent – of Democrats say they are more enthusiastic than normal. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans say the same. Trump continues to loom large for registered voters, with 60 percent of voters saying he will factor into how they cast their ballots. Well over a third of voters – 37 percent – say their vote will be against him, compared to just 23 percent who said it will be for him.

Republicans likely to remain in control of the Senate: In all, 35 seats are being contested in the Senate – 33 of which are being contested under normal Senate rules, in addition to two which are being contested because the incumbents, both Republicans, are retiring: Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee. Normally, one-third, or about 33, seats are contested every two years.

Flake’s seat continues to be tightly contested in a race between Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally. Sinema holds a narrow 6-point lead in the contest. The Republican seeking to succeed Corker, Marsha Blackburn, holds about the same margin over her Democratic challenger, Phil Bredesen.

Real Clear Politics, a polling aggregator website, counts six toss-up seats in the 100-member chamber with four of those seats held by Democrat incumbents. Republicans have a lock on 46 seats that are either safely Republican or are not up for election compared to just 37 for Democrats. Meanwhile, seven seats are either likely to go Democrat or lean Democrat, compared to four for Republicans. The Senate’s two Independents caucus with the Democrats, and both are expected to keep their seats.

Democrats face good odds in taking the House of Representatives: In the 435-member House, however, the likelihood that Republicans will maintain their hold is increasingly in doubt. Either party will need to claim a 218-seat majority to control the chamber, a challenge that may prove insurmountable for Republicans.

The party currently holds a 43-seat advantage in the House but is facing serious challenges to 30 seats it currently controls. Only four such tight races are for seats held by Democratic incumbents.  In addition to those 34 races, Democrats appear likely to take four seats from Republicans with an additional 11 currently held by Republicans now leaning Democratic.

Should Democrats take either chamber, that would mark a major upset for the president, who is seeking to round out his four-year term with major legislative victories, particularly long-promised immigration initiatives such as his border wall with Mexico and a repeal of former President Barack Obama’s universal healthcare law.  Democrats have staunchly opposed his agenda, particularly his efforts to curtail immigration and fully repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Should Democrats take either, or possibly both chambers, Trump would be forced to come to terms with a legislature no longer in the hands of his political allies.

At least 65 Muslims running for office across nation: In addition to the federal legislature, Americans will be voting on dozens of state governors and troves of other local officials and referendums. Across the nation, at least 65 Muslim-Americans are in the running for a variety of state, local and federal posts, according to Jetpac, a nonprofit working to increase Muslim-American civic engagement.

That is up from the nonprofit’s previous estimates of around 40 candidates as more individuals have been found in contests that are relatively lower on electoral ballots and garner less media attention.  In all, at least 128 Muslim-Americans ran for office in this election cycle, the highest number since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to Shaun King, Jetpac’s co-founder and executive director.

 

 

 

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