On November 4, American voters will elect 435 congressmen to the House of Representatives and 33 Senators to make up the 114th Congress.
“I believe this is a very crucial election and the presidential election after is very crucial,” said Richard Tison, professor of history at Cedarville. “Should (Republicans) pick up control of both houses and go on to win the presidency, then they have an opportunity to affect change.”
The Democrats hold the majority in the Senate with 55 out of the 100 seats. The Republicans hold the majority in the House of Representatives with 234 out of the 435 seats.
While Washington Post’s Election Lab reports the odds of a Democratic House of Representatives as less than one percent, control of the Senate is up for grabs.
Mark Smith, director of Cedarville’s Center for Political Studies, said, “I think there is a reasonable chance the Republicans will take control of the Senate. There’s still a ways to go, and public opinion can always change when we get involved in things like foreign conflicts.”
Cedarville history professor Marc Clauson said the key races to watch will be in Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina and Kansas, as well as a few more states. He also said most Republican candidates look like they are even or are slightly ahead in those states.
Tison, Clauson and Smith said they expect gridlock to continue until at least 2016 when Republicans may be able to control the House of Representatives, the Senate and the Executive Branch.
Tison also said the Republican party leadership needs to maintain their ties with the more conservative tea party faction. The Tea Party looks to cut government spending and lower taxes. Reconciliation of the Tea Party to the Republican
Party leaders would help the conservatives present a united front.
Senate Races by the State
To get the majority, Smith and Clauson said the Republicans need to win the Senate races in Iowa, Colorado, North Carolina, South Dakota, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Reuters reports that many prominent Republicans support Joni Ernst, a contender for the Senate seat in Iowa. The race for the Senate is still unanimously predicted as a tossup; the latest Rasmussen Reports poll called it a tie.
The Washington Post reports the Colorado Senate race between Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and Republican Cory Gardner will be a “nail-biter.” A recent poll by Quinnipiac University claims Gardner has an eight-point lead in light of their first debate.
In North Carolina, Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan has jumped ahead of Republican Thom Tillis following their first debate, Reuters reports. Hagan leads Tillis by four points, according to an Elon University poll.
In South Dakota, with the Democratic incumbent retiring, two-term governor Mike Rounds is controlling the race with a nine-point lead. The New York Times predicts Rounds has a 99 percent chance of winning.
In Arkansas, Republican Tom Cotton is challenging incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. Polling indicates Cotton is slightly ahead, but still within the margin of error.
Louisiana will be a tossup as well, Real Clear Politics reports. Though Republican Bill Cassidy is leading Democrat incumbent Mary Landrieu, neither seems to be able to get a majority in time for the election. If neither receives a majority, the race will result in a runoff that will take place December 6.
Obama and the Election
The Washington Post reports that President Obama is one factor adding to the election, particularly for the Democratic party. Declining poll numbers across the country are making races tough on once popular Democratic candidates.
Even if Obama loses control of the Senate in his last two years, Mark Smith said he doesn’t believe this would have a tremendous effect on the president’s legacy.
“It would be a black eye that will be a mark on his record, if he loses control of the Senate, but it isn’t all that unusual,” Smith said. “Ronald Reagan lost control of Republican Senate when he was in his sixth year of office.”
Smith also said it would not affect Obama’s legislative accomplishments, since the House of Representatives remains under Republican control. If Republicans are a majority in both legislative houses, Smith says the next couple of years could be dramatic.
“It does increase the possibility of a significant crisis,” he said. “In the past, when we’ve seen presidents go through significant conflicts with Congress it has often been after they have lost control of Congress.”
Will this year’s midterms affect the 2016 presidential race?
Smith said that if the Republicans take control of the Senate and are able to put forward an agenda that the voters support, even if President Obama vetoes it, then they could give the party some momentum heading into the presidential election.
Clauson said he agrees that taking control of the Senate will most likely add strength to the 2016 Republican ticket.
“That could give Republicans some momentum going into the campaign season,” he said. “If they put forward some good, articulate, clear candidates, and if they get the Senate, it could have a snowball effect for them.”
Smith said he believes the possible momentum depends on candidate selection, world affairs and the economy.
“Two years is an eternity in political time, so it’s difficult to say,” Smith said. “How the parties react to Russia, Syria, immigration issues and other issues can sway people.”
2016 Presidential Election
Clauson said everyone is pointing to Hillary Clinton for running on the 2016 Democratic ticket, but Clinton is giving mixed signals.Most other potential Democratic candidates are further left and would be unattractive to the average voter.
Clauson said the Republican 2016 presidential candidate could be Ted Cruz or Rand Paul. Clauson said the next president will likely be from Congress, so whomever emerges as an articulate leader in the next two years will be immediately labeled a potential candidate.
As for Obama’s legacy, Clauson said, “He’s been trying to circumvent Congress by using executive orders and they can’t really stop him unless they pass legislation to specifically override what he does in executive order. That could have a significant effect on what he tries to do.”
Brandon Best is a freshman English major and writer for Cedars. He enjoys writing, life and all the seasons of the year.