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White House in sight, Democrats focus on congressional races

world Updated: Oct 24, 2016 22:51 IST
Yashwant Raj

Supporters of Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Naples, Florida, don masks of the Republican and his rival Hillary Clinton.(AP)

With Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton holding her lead over rival Donald Trump, Democrats have turned their attention to congressional races hoping to flip both chambers — the Senate and the House of Representatives — that are currently dominated by Republicans.

President Barack Obama, who has hit the campaign trail in recently, was expected on Monday to endorse 30 more Democrats — including Ami Bera, an Indian-American seeking a third term from California — running for the house.

Clinton had plowed $1 million in Indiana and Missouri, solidly Republican states — with Indiana being home to Trump's vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence — in support of Democrats running for the house from there and governorship who could do well with a small push from her. the campaign was also using its vast resources to help Democratic candidates elsewhere.

She can afford to, leading as she was at this stage of the race with just two weeks to polling by over six points in the national average of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight pegging her chances of winning at 86.2%.

Even trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway admitted they were behind in TV interview on Sunday. Trump, who has said he will not accept the election outcome if defeated, had talked of losing in recent rallies and acted as if he had already moved beyond election day, at least in his mind.

Democrats can focus on congressional races thus — 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 in the Senate. Republicans controlled the outgoing house with 246 members, 28 more than the 218 threshold. Democrats held 186 and though they hope to increase their tally, they have been realistically circumspect about flipping it, which would require 32 more seats.

“That’s a tall order,” Geoffrey Skelley, of Virginia university’s respected Sabato’s crystal ball site on politics, said recently, adding, “we still only have democrats pegged to win maybe 10 to 15 net seats, and they were always going to win some seats just because republicans had such a large majority and were sort of overextended.”

The Senate will be easier. Democrats, who currently have 46 members in the 100-member chamber (99 actually, with the vice-president being the 100th), needed just four or five to flip it and will most likely, according to polls.

Republicans are on the defensive fighting, among usual challenges, blowback from their presidential nominee’s missteps. They have sought to distance themselves from trump, with speaker Paul Ryan, the senior most elected Republican in the country, leading the way by completely abandoning the nominee. but Democrats won’t let them.

Campaigning in California on Sunday, Obama, whose own poll numbers are soaring, slammed local republican congressman Darell Issa, who has been a fierce critic of the president but has been forced by plunging poll numbers to talk about the times he cooperated with him.

“This guy has spent all his time simply trying to obstruct, to feed the same sentiments that resulted in Donald Trump becoming their nominee. i think somebody called Darrell Issa -- was this you, Doug (Doug Applegate, the Democrat running for house), who said Darrell Issa was Trump before Trump? And now he’s sending out brochures touting his cooperation with me. now, that is shameless.”