Democrats risk losing control of the House of Representatives, which would paralyze the legislative agenda and leave Biden a “lame duck.”
On November 8, the United States has a decisive date with the polls. And, more than legislative elections where Democrats and Republicans play for control of both Houses of Congress , the electoral contest will also measure the strength of both political formations in the face of the 2024 presidential elections.
With Trump ‘s shadow in the background threatening to return to the White House, conservative candidates have tried to strategically use their support during the primary campaign ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections, although success has not been guaranteed for all. Next month ‘s Midterms will be the best thermometer to measure the political environment of a country that is more polarized than ever.
What is at stake in the legislative elections for Congress?
The Midterms are the mid-term legislative elections in which the entire House of Representatives (435 congressmen) and a third of the 100 seats in the Senate (33 senators) are renewed. There are also 36 governors and municipal elections: mayors, local public officials and a wide variety of citizen initiatives. There will be, in total, 460 legislative contests at the federal level.
Even so, “this election is not so much about demonstrating the political strength of each party at the national level, but rather a series of local elections that will dictate what happens in Washington for the next two years,” explains Rafael Bernal in an interview : “Despite the fact that there are really very few competitive contests, both parties are very close in terms of political power and it remains to be seen who maintains power in each House.”
For now, the Democrats have everything to win in the Senate, “about a 70 or 75% chance,” Bernal points out. And, conversely, the Republicans “between 70 and 80 percent chance of having control over the House of Representatives. If that scenario happens, the most likely, we are going to see a series of attacks against the Biden Administration similar to what we saw with the Trump Administration, ”he adds.
In addition, regardless of how each reinforced political formation turns out for the next electoral contest, the 2024 presidential elections, if these forecasts are fulfilled “the legislative agenda is going to stop dead and the budget negotiations are going to have the risk of shutdown of the Federal Government for the next two years of Republican control over either House.”
What are the most decisive issues?
The experts are clear: “the main issue in these mid-term elections is the economy and inflation.” And, in that sense, one of the biggest concerns of the Biden Administration in this final stretch of the contest is that, during this last month, the price of gasoline will rise. Something that would damage the government electorally. Other rigorous current issues that keep the country divided, such as abortion, migration, weapons, crime, climate change or education, remain in the background for the voter when it comes to going to the polls.
“The main function of these secondary issues is to motivate people to go out and vote. Or discourage it, ”says Rafael Bernal. “The Republicans have an advantage there because all the polls indicate that the supporters of former President Donald Trump are very motivated to vote and they could turn out to vote in similar numbers to 2018 or 2020 ″, he highlights.
Historically, since Ronald Reagan, the president’s party that resides in the House Bank tends to lose control over one or both Houses, or tends to lose congressional seats. Although now things have changed. “The biggest factor against continuing the historical trend, aside from the divisive political environment, is that we just had a census.”
In Texas , for example, a couple of lower house districts were added while California lost one. The new census outlines new electoral maps and “the reality is that we do not know the behavior of the districts that have changed substantially, so there may be many surprises and the historical reference really tells us less” at this time.
Which states will be key in November?
Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona. On a second level: Florida . “And from there you lose a lot of competitiveness. It may be that we have a more or less competitive election in Colorado for the Senate. New Hampshire could also spring an upset, but it’s highly unlikely.” The districts that monopolize the attention are barely 25.
“These are elections with very serious governability consequences for the next two years that depend on very few voters in the United States, because no matter how many Democratic voters go out to vote in California , or how many Republican voters do so in Texas or in other states of the south. The final decision of who is going to govern this country is going to be made by the voters in those 25 different states and in those 5 states.”
The war in Ukraine in an electoral key
Ukraine has been an exception in the US political environment, especially when it comes to approving federal aid packages from the seat of the legislature. Rarely have Democrats and Republicans managed to reach consensus. “It’s curious because Ukraine has been one of the few issues with bipartisan support” on Capitol Hill, says Rafael Bernal, who regularly covers Congress.
“However, we are beginning to see that unanimous alliance cracking within Trump supporters. Some of his followers, even in the government, have given indications that they do not view Vladimir Putin so badly, they believe a little the idea that Ukraine provoked the Russian invasion. They are a minority, but an eventual Republican majority would be more open to seeing things from Putin’s point of view than the Democratic-controlled Congress is now.
Trump, leader of the Republican Party?
Republicans neither affirm nor deny that Trump remains the leader of his party. “It is almost impossible, given everything that has happened in the last two years, that Trump does not launch a presidential candidacy,” Bernal considers. “He’s going to use it as a box office moment, to get more attention, but no one watching is going to be surprised. Trump announced that he was running for re-election from January 6, 2021 ″.