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October 25, 2010

US Congressional Election Campaign Enters Final Week

by Jim Malone

The battle for control of the U.S. Congress has entered its final week and both major political parties are engaged in a furious last-minute push for votes.



According to the opinion polls and political pundits, Republicans continue to have the upper hand heading into the final days of the 2010 congressional midterm election campaign.

Most Americans say the domestic economy is the number-one issue this year, and the public's dismal view of the economic climate is bound to hurt Democrats and help Republicans on Election Day, November 2.

Among those campaigning for Republican candidates is Ohio Congressman John Boehner, who is likely to become speaker of the House if Republicans win back a majority next week.

"If you are tired of the high unemployment, if you are tired of all the takeovers and bailouts, [then] that is what elections are for," he said.

Polls also give Republicans an edge in voter enthusiasm, though there are signs that lethargic Democrats may be waking up in the final days of the campaign.

Much of that Republican intensity is being driven by the Tea Party movement, a loose coalition of conservative and libertarian-leaning groups around the country that is demanding spending and tax cuts and a smaller role for the central government generally.

"We are angry," noted a Tea Party member at a recent rally in Massachusetts.  "I do not have to ask people to join the Tea Party.  I just say, hey, I am in the Tea Party, what can I do?"

In recent days there are signs that some key Senate races may be tightening, giving hope to beleaguered Democrats who fear the possibility of losing control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to Republicans.

Republicans need a gain of 39 seats to win back control of the House and a pickup of 10 seats to regain a majority in the Senate.

Richard Wolffe is a political analyst for MSNBC television and a guest on VOA's Issues in the News program.

"But it is a very closely fought election, in spite of what the predictions are," said Wolffe.  "You look at the polls here and you look at state by state and district by district, pretty much all the important races are within the margin of error."

Democrats are well aware that they will do poorly if voters see the election merely as a referendum on the party in power, given the weak national economy.

So as he campaigns for Democratic candidates around the country, President Barack Obama is urging voters to see the election as a choice between going backward and moving ahead.

"Their whole campaign strategy is amnesia," said President Obama.  "And so you need to remember that this election is a choice between the policies that got us into this mess and the policies that are leading out of this mess."

Despite the polls that show some of the key Senate races tightening in recent days, the overall polling picture looks much better for Republicans than Democrats.

"All polls show that the public remains deeply dissatisfied with the president, with the Congress, with the parties and with the way things are going in the country today," said Karlyn Bowman who monitors public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

But Bowman is quick to point out that Republicans are likely to do well in next Tuesday's election despite the fact that many voters view them even more negatively than Democrats.

"Democrats understand that voters are upset and they are likely to vote against them because of the direction of the country.  But Democrats are trying to make this a choice between Democrats and Republicans because Democrats are not popular, but Republicans are not popular either," says Nathan Gonzales, the political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a non-partisan newsletter in Washington.  He was a guest on VOA's Encounter program.

Campaign monitoring groups say this could be the most expensive U.S. midterm election ever, and they estimate that $2 billion could be spent by the end of the campaign next week.  That is due in part to a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year that changed campaign finance laws and allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money on independent television ads calling for the election or defeat of specific candidates.