WASHINGTON, November 2 (RIA Novosti) — On Tuesday, November 4, American voters will head to the polls to select who their Congressional representative will be for the two remaining years of President Obama's term. Currently, Republicans hold a 34-seat majority in the House of Representatives, with every member up for reelection. Democrats control a 55-45 advantage in the Senate, where 33 seats are up for contention — 21 of which are held by Democrats.
House of Representatives
Under the leadership of Speaker John Boehner, Republicans in the House have used their four years in control to prevent President Obama and Democrats in the Senate from passing legislation on key issues like how to handle immigrants from South and Central America, convert to clean energy, and take guns off the streets. Moreover, they repeatedly attempted to repeal health care legislation, which passed in 2010, and tried to lower taxes on wealthy corporations, cut social security and health insurance for senior citizens, and sell off public lands for gas and oil development.
Buoyed by the continued unpopularity of President Obama, a gerrymandered Congressional map, and the potential of losing support of traditional voting blocs, it appears likely that Republicans will maintain their grip on the House of Representatives.
Another two years of Republican control of the House will likely mean little change from the positions held throughout the last four years. However, they will have a larger impact if Republicans are able to take control of the Senate.
Of the 33 seats up for election, thirteen will be closely contested, and several will be decided by perhaps as few as a thousand voters. For Republicans to take hold of the chamber, they would need to win nine of the thirteen seats.
Those thirteen seats can be broken into several categories:
First: Democratic Senators retired (or, in the case of former Montana Senator Max Baucus, became Ambassador to China) in Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Iowa, and Michigan.
Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota all voted for Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain in the last two Presidential races, and appear likely to switch. Michigan appears likely to elect a new Democratic Senator, while the race in Iowa is still too close to call.
The next group where Republicans hope to add seats is in Republican states, currently represented by incumbent Democratic Senators. Democratic Senators in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina, are facing uphill battles as they ask voters for another term. All of these races are currently polling within five points, meaning they will come down to the ability of each candidate to motivate and facilitate their voters getting to the polls. If Republicans take all of these seats, their majority will be assured, even if they lose some of the seats they hold.
Finally: Republicans currently hold seats in Kentucky and Kansas, and Georgia had a Republican Senator who retired; all three are being contested by well-funded and popular candidates who are polling within a few points. Georgian candidate, Michelle Nunn, is the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who would become Majority Leader if he manages to lead his party to victory, currently holds the Kentucky seat.
With a more evenly split Senate, there could be more pressure on Democrats and Republicans to work together. Already, the top Democrat and top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee are agreeing on the need to provide weapons for Ukraine. The top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Foreign Affairs committee are also working together to increase military assistance for Ukraine.
If Republicans take the Senate, their control of the Committees could have consequences for Russia. The top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, argued in September that the US should respond to Russia's apparent INF Treaty violations by expanding American missile defense, modernizing and reassessing America's nuclear arsenal, and increasing Eastern European missile defense.
If Democrats are able to maintain control by holding onto some of their existing seats and winning one of the Republican states, they will continue to push on major domestic issues like immigration reform. On foreign policy, Democrats are more skeptical of ongoing military involvement in the Middle East, but so far have shown little resistance for military expansion in NATO and Asia.
With so many races within only a few points, and the possibility of runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana if neither candidate receives 50% of the vote, control of the Senate may not be decided on November 5th. And whenever the 2014 campaign officially ends, the 2016 Presidential race to succeed President Obama will officially begin.
Daniel Zubov (United States)
November 2, 2014
Center for International Journalism and Research, "Rossiya Segodnya"