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Growing momentum seen for Republicans as US midterms near

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-10-26 07:28
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Jene Hinspeter, a Lee County election official, sets up signs on Monday directing voters to the polling station at Wa-Ke Hatchee Park, Fort Myers, Florida. Early voting in Florida for the 2022 general election started on Monday. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/AFP

With just 13 days remaining until the midterm elections on Nov 8, analysts and polls have pointed to the possibility that Republicans could retake the House and perhaps the Senate, which could usher in political trench warfare for the White House for the next two years.

On Monday, US President Joe Biden, whose Democratic Party has a razorthin control in Congress, dismissed the polls that indicate growing Republican momentum, saying there's still time for "one more shift" that will help Democrats.

Democrats hold a slim majority over Republicans in the House at 221-212, and have a 50-50 tie in the upper chamber, with Vice-President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote. All the seats in the House and about one-third of the 100 Senate seats are up for grabs this year.

A recent poll found that voters who were surveyed trust Republicans more than Democrats on top issues including the economy.

On both inflation and gas prices, 38 percent of Americans polled said they trust Republicans more than Democrats — 17 points higher than the percentage of people who trust Democrats on those issues, according to an ABC News/Ipsos poll released on Sunday.

Last week, a Harvard CAPS-Harris Poll survey found Republicans leading Democrats 53 percent to 47 percent among likely voters in the race to win control of the House and Senate, while other polls indicated a previously wider lead by Democrats shrinking to just one point, The Hill reported on Sunday.

"The polls have been all over the place," Biden said in a speech at the Democratic Party's headquarters in Washington. "Republicans ahead, Democrats ahead, Republicans ahead. But it's going to close, I think, with seeing one more shift — Democrats ahead."

Cal Jillson, a political scientist and historian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said that going all the way back to the mid-19th century, the incumbent president's party in midterm elections has lost seats in the House 94 percent of the time and lost seats in the Senate 75 percent of the time.

"Democrats are certainly poised to lose seats in the House and perhaps also in the Senate," he said.

According to Jillson, turnout in early voting is already very high and expected to remain so through Election Day.

"The election cycle began with the expectation that the Republicans would do quite well, perhaps taking majority control of both houses of Congress. But the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion services, fired up the Democrats. Nonetheless, Republicans are still favored to retake the House and perhaps the Senate," Jillson said.

Losing majority control of the House would be bad for the Democrats, but losing control of the Senate would be much worse. Biden needs a Democratic majority in the Senate to continue appointing new federal judges and Supreme Court justices, Jillson said.

"Democrats need to tout their policy wins and highlight their pledge to protect abortion rights, even if only to cut their losses in the House and to give their party a fighting chance to hold their majority in the Senate," he said.

Christopher Borick, a professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, said, "I expect on the whole that Republicans will do well in this cycle, picking up seats in the House and Senate and at the state level."

Regarding the potential impact of the Democrats losing control of Congress, even in one of the chambers, Borick said, "It certainly limits any major Democrat agenda items from moving forward, and will elevate congressional oversight of the Biden administration."

Some analysts noted that this year's midterms are playing out in a different environment from past years, given that it is the first national election since the Jan 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

However, Stanley Renshon, a political scientist at City University of New York, said the "new environment" is not the events of Jan 6 but rather "two full years and counting" of the Biden administration in power.

"I expect substantial Democratic Party losses, not because that's the norm, but rather because ultimately the reality of multiple poor policy choices counts — inflation, spending, border control, crime and so on," he said.

At a news conference on Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Republicans in Congress want to put Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block, repeal the Inflation Reduction Act and take away a plan that deals with climate change.

She was echoing Biden's earlier speech in which he said the midterm election will be a "choice" between Democrats and Republicans about "whether we go forward or backward".

The Republicans, in a newly unveiled Commitment to America plan, highlighted multiple areas that it said show Democrats have led the US "off track" over the past two years, including inflation, which is at a 40-year high, rampant crime, gas price increases and border chaos.

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