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Professor on Midterms: This Is Really Referendum on Trump Presidency

© REUTERS / Rick WilkingA voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014
A voter fills in her ballot as she votes in the U.S. midterm elections at a polling place in Westminster, Colorado November 4, 2014 - Sputnik International
The midterm election to the US Congress is scheduled to be held on November 6. The US voters will elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and around a third of all US senators. Sputnik spoke about it to David Schultz, political science professor at Hamline University.

Sputnik: We are a week out from the US midterm elections, what are the major issues?

David Schultz: Both the Democrats and the Republicans have rival issues. Democrats are talking about health care and the economy as issues while Republicans are talking about immigration as their major issue.

However, the reality is that this election is really a referendum or vote on the Trump presidency no matter what anyone says. Issues such as health care, immigration, the economy, the Supreme Court and Brett Kavanaugh, all are really surrogate or placeholder issues that are about Trump. Saying you support or oppose health care reform or banning immigration is really all about whether you support or oppose Trump.

Sputnik: Last week the United States witnessed both attempts to send pipe bombs to major Democratic party leaders and the killing of 11 Jewish people in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. What impact do you think these issues or events will have on the election?

David Schultz: First it is too soon to tell their impact and who knows what else will happen in the next few days that will get headlines. A week ago it seemed that the Supreme Court and the Kavanaugh hearings were going to be the number one issue leading up to the election but it seems now the Court and Kavanaugh have faded as a visible issue. There is, however, no question that these events are highlighting a major trend of American politics right now.

We have moved from a political scenario characterized by political polarization and anger, to that of hate and now to violence. We are beginning to see events in politics in the US not seen in the US when there was significant violence including the assassination of a president and the killing of a major civil rights leader. This shows how tense and polarized the US is now.

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Sputnik: What impact does Trump have on this?

David Schultz: Trump's political success resided in tapping into the anger and divides in American politics and his rhetoric continues to flame this. His political strategy that was successful in 2016 was to use inflammatory and divisive rhetoric and he is again doing that now. Trump, even if he wanted to, cannot tone done the rhetoric because his political base thrives on it and Trump needs his base to turn out for Republicans to do well this year.

Sputnik: What other factors do you think will determine the outcome of the election next week?

David Schultz: Turnout is the biggest issue-whether Democrats or Republicans turnout and in percentages and where. The battleground for the Congress is in the suburbs and the main issue is whether suburban women in more affluent suburbs will show up. In 2016 they did not show up but if they do this year and vote for Democrats, and the evidence suggests they will, it will be a good year for Democrats.

Trump's rhetoric about women, the Me Too movement, the Brett Kavanaugh/Dr. Ford/Supreme Court hearings, have all motivated women to vote this year. More women are running for office this year than ever. Suburban women are the most important voters in America. There are also signs that voters under the age of 30 are more motivated to vote.

Sputnik: What do you think might happen in terms of results?

David Schultz: It would be near impossible for the Democrats to capture the Senate because they are defending too many Senate seats, especially those in states Trump won in 2016. Democrats may actually lose Senate seats.

However, Democrats have a better than even chance to win the House of Representatives. If the battleground for the House is in the suburbs, Republicans are defending more vulnerable seats there than Democrats and again signs point to significant pickups for the Democrats.

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Sputnik: Finally, if the Democrats win the House, what next?

David Schultz: Democratic control of the House will place significant checks on Trump and also put him even on more of a defense into allegations of illegal behavior. Democratic control of the House and a soon conclusion of the special prosecutor's investigation will be a potent problem for Trump.

From a legislative perspective, a Democratic victory may effectively bring to an end the Trump presidency. Foreign Policy wise, it is not clear how a change in party control will effect Trump's power internationally, but he will face limits on funding to do things such as build his wall with Mexico or take some other actions that require congressional support or at least acquiescence.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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