By James Oliphant and Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Control of the U.S. Congress is at stake in November’s midterm elections, along with the rest of President Joe Biden’s policy agenda.
Republicans have a strong chance of taking control of the US House of Representatives, while Democrats have better hopes of retaining a majority in the Senate. A Republican House would be enough to derail most of the legislation that Biden and his fellow Democrats want to enact, as well as likely spark a wave of new congressional investigations into the administration.
The party in power usually loses seats in the House during the first four-year term of a new president.
Democratic President Barack Obama’s party lost a devastating 63 seats in the 2010 election during his first term. In 2018, two years into Donald Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party delivered 41 seats in the House. In both cases, control of the ward was overturned.
This year, Republicans only need to win four seats in the Nov. 8 election to take a majority in the 435-member House.
Their chances of winning those seats have improved through gerrymandering, the practice by which a party manipulates congressional district lines to consolidate its own power during the once-a-decade redistricting process.
Republicans have created new advantageous maps through statehouses they control, including in Texas and Florida, while Democrats in New York saw their own aggressive map overturned by the state’s highest court.
Fewer than 35 House races are considered by election analysts to be true swings in November, according to a set of top election analysts.
SOME DEMOCRATS GET OUT THE DOOR
House Democrats fearing a Republican takeover are sprinting for the exits. Thirty-one House Democrats have announced they are retiring or seeking other office, the most for the party since 1992.
Republicans need to win just one seat to take control of the US Senate, which is currently split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris in a tie.
But struggling Democrats in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada may help the party hold on to those seats, while Republicans could surrender seats in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, two states that voted for Biden over Trump in the election of 2020.
On the other hand, a Republican surge could see all of those seats go that party’s way, perhaps along with Colorado and New Hampshire.
While Biden is not on the November ballot, the midterms often serve as a referendum on the president. Biden’s popularity rebounded slightly over the summer after a series of policy wins and some improving economic news, but he still remains underwater with the American public.
Less than half of the country – 38% – approve of his performance, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted on August 29-30. The same poll showed that 69% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, compared to just 21% who said it was on the right track.
Trump is also not on the ballot. However, he has successfully endorsed a number of like-minded candidates as he seeks to remain the de facto leader of his party ahead of another possible run for the White House in 2024.
Democrats have been reeling from the fallout from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade’s constitutional abortion protections, which has resulted in a surge in Democratic protest votes in a Kansas referendum and a series of special House elections. . The uproar over the court’s decision appears to have erased the Republican advantage in voter enthusiasm.
“Democrats have more reason to be optimistic than they have in a long time,” said Jacob Rubashkin, an analyst at Inside Elections in Washington. “But the Democrats’ position is still incredibly dire in both chambers.”
Democrats also hope that Trump’s legal troubles stemming from the recent FBI raid on his Florida home and ongoing investigations into his role in trying to swing the 2020 election will make swing voters less inclined to support Republican candidates. .
Democrats’ expectations that a rapid economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic would boost their midterm prospects have not materialized.
Despite a sharp drop in unemployment, the economy is still plagued by rampant inflation, which has pushed up the cost of household staples such as food and energy. Although the prices of some goods such as gasoline have fallen, the Federal Reserve recently warned that it will need to take aggressive steps to control inflation that could slow growth.
Polls by Reuters/Ipsos and others still show the economy as voters’ top concern, far outstripping other issues such as crime, immigration, abortion and the environment.
Democrats have argued that a recent climate and health care package passed by Congress will help reduce inflation by, among other things, making prescription drugs more affordable and lowering health care costs.
The Biden White House also recently announced that the government will forgive some student loan debt, a controversial decision that Democrats hope will help boost younger voter turnout.
(Reporting by James Oliphant and Jason Lange; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jonathan Oatis)