A Preview of the Midterm Elections

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A Preview of the Midterm Elections

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Presidential elections which take place every four years are obviously consequential in determining the policy direction of the country.  However many off-year elections, including the one that occurs on November 6th this year, can also send important signals about presidential approval and determine which party controls Congress and state houses.  In less than a month, voters will head to the polls to cast their ballots for all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 35 of the 100 United States senators and 36 governors.  The outcome of these midterms could well spell disaster or relief for President Trump’s agenda.

Analysts argue that these midterms could be the most consequential election in a generation. If the Republicans are able to hold on to their razor-thin majority in Congress, President Trump could well emerge emboldened to enact controversial policy proposals – making the next two years significantly easier for the White House to secure funding for a border wall, end Obamacare, and enact more tax cuts.

In addition, if the Republican Party remains in control of the United States Senate, the White House might have a chance to put a third Supreme Court justice on the bench: the aging Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg will turn 86 next March, and it is thought that she might retire soon.

Despite their razor-thin majority in the Senate – 51 Republicans to 49 Democrats – Republicans have an electoral advantage in 2018.  Of the 35 seats up for grabs this year, only 9 are Republican-held seats. This creates an uphill battle for the Democrats who must defend 24 seats.  Moreover, the remaining two seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democrats, and these too will be contested this year.

The numbers are only part of the story, however.  A good number of these Democrat-held seats are in states won by President Trump in 2016, like West Virginia, North Dakota and Missouri, putting these Democrat incumbents in a difficult position of opposing a president popular in their states.   The Virginia senate seat, on the other hand, looks safely in the hands of the Democrats. Incumbent Democratic Senator, former Virginia governor and 2016 vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine is being challenged by Republican Corey Stewart for the junior senate seat for Virginia. Senator Kaine is ahead in the polls with 49% to Stewarts 30%, according to the Washington Post.   Stewart was recently chair of the Board of Supervisors for Prince Williams County.

The House of Representatives is a different story.  Currently, the Republican party controls 238 seats versus 193 for the Democrats. There are currently 4 unoccupied seats in the House.  To gain control of the House, Democrats would need to win 23 seats currently held by the GOP. History is in favor of the Democrats achieving this.  The President’s party has lost an average of 32 House seats and 2 Senate seats in every Midterm since the Civil War according to analysis by the New York Times.  

This year should be no different: with less than a month to Election Day, the Democratic party is winning with 49.2% to a Republican 41.4% in the generic ballot according to a recent poll conducted by the popular political website FiveThirtyEight.  The Democratic base of voters seems to be motivated to vote as a check to President’s Trump divisive personality and controversial policies.

In our area, the incumbent Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock is facing a stiff challenge from Democrat Jennifer Wexton, a local state senator for Virginia’s 33rd district.   The 10th congressional district consists of Clarke, Loudoun, Frederick and portions of Fairfax and Prince William counties – areas occupied by many federal government workers that have been turning blue in recent years. As of October 9th, Wexton leads Comstock by 12% in a poll conducted by the Washington Post.

Representative Comstock has represented the Congressional District since 2015. Before that, she was in the Virginia House of Delegates from 2010 to 2014. Jennifer Wexton is a state senator who has represented Virginia’s 33rd district since 2014.

It is widely speculated that if the Democrats are able to take control of either or both houses of Congress, they will fiercely oppose President Trump’s key policies for the rest of his term. They will have the power to kill Republican legislation. Also with the majority, the Democrats will gain control of congressional committees which could introduce new investigations into the Trump administration and continue current investigations that continue to plague Trump’s Presidency.

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