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US mid-terms: Republicans on the rise

As the US votes this week, the real battle is for the control of the senate, which, polls show Republicans have a good to excellent chance of winning.

world Updated: Nov 02, 2014 10:26 IST
RO Khanna,SIlicon Valley,Mike Honda

Shortly after Ro Khanna entered the race for a cong ressional seat home to Silicon Valley, his opponent, fellow Democrat Mike Honda, lined up all the party's prized endorsements. President Barack Obama's too.

Khanna hung in, and finished second in the primaries, putting himself on the ballot for the mid-term congressional elections next Tuesday.

The White House is still backing Honda, the seven-term incumbent, with the first lady, Michelle Obama, releasing Thursday a recorded message in his favor. Khanna's campaign has never seemed much worried by the White House's overt support for Honda. In fact, it may have even been celebrating it secretly.

Obama is highly toxic.

A Democrat running for the senate from Kentucky has ads saying, "I am not Barack Obama." She has also refused to say if she ever voted for him.

Americans vote this Tuesday to elect a third of the senate, 33, plus two vacancies; all 435 voting members of the House of Representatives; and 36 of the 50 governors. The battle, really, is for the control of the senate, which is currently held by Democrats.

Polls show Republicans have good to excellent chances of winning it.

Senate by numbers

Called the mid-term, because they happen between two presidential polls, these elections have been traditionally unkind to serving presidents, especially in their second terms. "All presidents in midterm elections are usually liabilities to their party as Obama was in 2010 and Bush was in 2006," said Thomas Mann of Brookings. "It's just a reality. Specially those facing midterms in their second term."

Jefrey Pollack, a pollster who founded Global Strategy Group, calls it the 'six-year itch', occurring in the sixth year of two-term presidents.

And they can be 'quite devastating'. In President Obama's first mid-term, in 2010, Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives- a 'shellacking', in Obama's own words, that ended his presidency's honeymoon. The devastation staring the Democrat in the White House this time is the loss of senate to Republicans, who have controlled the House of Representatives since 2010.

Republicans need a net gain of six to take the upper house. Polls show them in a good position in three. They are likely to win seven Democratic held seats . in the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina.

But Republican could lose three of their own . in Georgia, Kansas and possibly Kentucky, which the senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is struggling to hold. Fivethirtyeight, the polling aggregation website run by Nate Silver, who has yet to make a wrong call, says Republicans have a 68.3% chance of winning a majority in the Senate.

Though some polls have been far more generous, the projection- and they are nothing but- show a far from settled race, with a lot of voters likely to make up their minds closer to polling.

Issues, or just politics

President Barack Obama's popularity ratings are at their lowest yet, drawing comparisons with President George W Bush's at the same time in their respective presidencies.

And that's the chief reason for his toxicity. He has turned into an issue himself, which he has tried to address, but muddied the pitch say he may not be on the ballot, but his policies are. Republicans jumped on that line, inserting into their ads across constituencies- specially to corner Democrats trying to put distance between themselves and the president.

But polls show the chief issue remains the economy, which has improved enough for the Federal Reserve to end its bondbuying stimulus package the past week. Economy remains the top issue, with polls showing Americans believe Republicans have a better fix for that problem.

They have also polled better on security issues such as the threats posed to Americans due to the Ebola-outbreak in West Africa and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a terrorist group.

First Published: Nov 02, 2014 10:21 IST