The 2010 midterm elections could cause losses for the Democrats in the House and the Senate, leading to a Republican majority in both houses. President Obama’s honeymoon period is coming to an end, and rising unemployment rates and the growing federal deficit are causing his support to drop.
As of now, Democrats have 256-178 edge in the House, with one vacancy, and 58-40 edge in the Senate, with two Independents who vote with Democrats. Things are looking up for the Republicans however, since the party that controls the White House has lost control in Congress in every midterm election except in 1934 and 2002.
These years were exceptions because they were the midterm elections following the Great Depression and 9/11, respectively, and voters chose to keep the president’s party in the majority during these times of crisis.
However, despite these exceptions, the president’s popularity tends to decline by the time midterm elections roll around, and voters fill Congress with members of the opposite party.
Surprisingly, a Republican majority could be good for Obama if he is considering reelection. Proposals such as a public option in health care reform, a cap-and-trade energy scheme, and tax increases are popular with the Democratic voters, but it is the independents that hold the president’s fate in their hands.
Even if the Democrats are in the minority, the always valuable “swing voters” are who really control Congress are who decide what laws get passed. If Obama can convince the independents, a Republican majority will not be devastating to his administration because they are the voters who generally put people in power. Since the Democrat and Republican votes tend to cancel each other out, it is the small group of independent voters who really matter.
And it is not looking good for Obama. Independents who favored Barack Obama in the 2008 election are closer to Republicans than Democrats on fiscal issues and health care, and some have expressed concern that they do not know where their money is going.
“[Independents] are discomforted by the degree of debt, by the proportion of spending, by what they see as mortgaging our children’s futures,” said Whit Ayers, a respected pollster.
In the National Gallup Poll, registered voters preferred a Republican victory for the House over Democrats, 48% to 44% in November 2009. This was a change from October, where registered voters preferred a Democratic victory. Over the course of 2009, independents preference for a Republican victory in 2010 has grown by two percentage points.
However, a Republican Congress is not guaranteed, as a setback for the Republicans sprung up recently. Republican Senator Voinovich announced he will not seek reelection in 2010. That leaves Republicans with a highly vulnerable seat in a perennial swing state that has drifted Democratic in the last two elections.
Despite such setbacks, the minority party could very well take control of Congress in 2010. Things are looking up for the Republicans.