News / USA

Column: Americans Downbeat as Midterm Elections Loom

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (L) (R-TN) waves as his supporters and supporters of his competitor State Rep. Joe Carr looks on, as he campaigns in Dickson, Tennessee Aug. 3, 2014.
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (L) (R-TN) waves as his supporters and supporters of his competitor State Rep. Joe Carr looks on, as he campaigns in Dickson, Tennessee Aug. 3, 2014.

The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll paints a grim portrait of the U.S. political landscape.
 
President Barack Obama’s approval is down to only 40 percent in the latest survey.  Only 36 percent of those asked approve of his handling of foreign policy.
 
Republicans don’t fare much better.
 
Only 19 percent view them favorably while 54 percent have a negative view.  Congressional Democrats got a favorable rating of 31 percent compared to 46 percent negative.
 
Other numbers in this survey suggest Americans are still suffering what you might call a “hangover” from the recession that ended five years ago.
 
Seventy-one percent of adults in the poll believe the country is on the wrong track, and 76 percent say they are not confident that their children will have a better life than they do, an all-time high for this particular survey.
 
Whichever party can address the long term economic anxieties is likely to have an advantage not only this November, but in the 2016 presidential election as well.
 
U.S. presidential elections present candidates and political parties their best opportunity to present a vision for the future, and the public usually rewards those who are best able to tap into the fears and hopes of American voters.
 
Obama seeks damage control
 
The bleak public outlook reflected in this latest poll comes with less than four months to go until the midterm congressional elections on November 4 and President Obama and his Democratic allies are scrambling to minimize expected losses.
 
The stakes for the president are huge.  Loss of Senate control to Republicans for the final two years of Obama’s tenure would likely prevent him from doing anything substantial to burnish his presidential legacy before he leaves office.
 
And Republican control of both the House and Senate would ensure that political gridlock would remain with us at least through the 2016 presidential elections.
 
So President Obama has plenty of reason to hit the campaign trail for Democrats over the next few months.
 
During a recent speech in Kansas City, Missouri, Obama ramped up his rhetoric against Republicans in Congress in the wake of the latest failure by Congress to do anything substantive to deal with the wave of young immigrants on the U.S. southern border.
 
“Stop just hating all the time,” the president told the partisan crowd.  “I know they’re not happy that I’m president but that’s okay.  I got a couple of years left.  C’mon, then you can be mad at the next president!”
 
Immigration as issue
 
It’s clear that election fever is setting in in Washington and you can expect mostly political wrangling when Congress returns after its summer recess in September.  The recent inability of Congress to do much on the immigration issue is classic election-year politicking.
 
Both sides refused to budge.  Democrats stood firm against Republican attempts to roll back a 2012 program that deferred deportations for many immigrants who had been brought into the country as children, a popular stand with the growing class of Hispanic voters that Democrats look to count on in future presidential elections.
 
Republican congressional leaders heeded conservative wishes to trim back the amount of money the Obama administration wants to deal with the border crisis.  Conservatives want to avoid any moves that could be seen as supporting the president’s immigration policy.
 
Republicans also narrowly passed a bill before recess backed by Tea Party conservatives that would curtail the 2012 program that protects immigrants brought to the country as children.
 
For both parties in the end, politics triumphed over the need to address the crisis on the border.
 
Democrats will continue to try and mobilize Hispanic voters to take part in the November midterms, well aware that they are more likely to turn out in presidential election years.  Republicans also point that most of the key Senate races this year, with the exception of Colorado, are in conservative-leaning states where Hispanic voters are less of a factor that they would be in other states.
 
Midterm battlegrounds
 
Most political analysts believe Republicans will hold or slightly expand their majority in the House of Representatives this year, where all 435 seats are at stake.
 
The real battle is for control of the Senate, where 36 of the 100 seats are being contested and Republicans need to gain six seats currently held by Democrats to claim a bare majority.  Republicans appear to have an excellent chance because nine of the 12 states with the most competitive Senate races are states that Republican Mitt Romney won in 2012.
 
Republicans are already favored to win Democratic seats in South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia, which would get them halfway to their goal assuming Democrats don’t win any seats currently held by Republicans.
 
Democrats are hoping for possible upsets in two Republican-leaning states--Georgia and Kentucky, where Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell faces a credible Democratic challenger in Alison Lundergan Grimes.
 
The most intense Senate battlegrounds this year will be in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire and North Carolina.  All are states with Senate Democratic incumbents facing strong challenges from Republicans.
 
If Republicans can pick off three Democratic incumbents from that list, combined with the other gains they are counting on, they will hold a majority in the Senate come next January, ensuring the two parties will have to either find a way to work together in the final two years of the Obama presidency or resort to gridlock and political paralysis.
 
But a growing number of pundits say that although Republicans are well-positioned to make gains in November, they don’t see the makings of a ‘tidal wave election’ like the one that propelled Republicans to recapture the House in 2010.
 
The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll revealed strong public dismay with both political parties, but also found that independent voters have yet to engage in this year’s elections and may stay home, making a wave election less likely.
 
University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato put it this way at a recent forum organized by Politico:
 
“This is the best map for Republicans since 1980,” he said. “They should run up a huge margin based on the conditions that ought to be present in a sixth year (of a president’s term) election.  Ain’t happening so far.  It’s just not happening.”
 
Most of the key Senate races remain quite close at the moment and a number of Democrats in so-called Republican ‘Red States’ are proving to be resilient and well-financed.
 
It’s likely that the battle for Senate control is likely to continue right up until Election Day, analysts say.

You May Like

Russia's 'V-Day' Glory Over Nazis Overshadowed by Ukraine

Critics say Soviet-style display of power, nationalism don't recognize tragic scars of warfare that still influence politics, fighting in Ukraine More

Tensions Simmer in Hong Kong in Lead Up to Vote

Many Hong Kong citizen say if the reform plan will be a step back for the pro-democracy movement if passed More

Multimedia Obama Calls for New Commitment to Help Minority Youths Succeed

President introduces My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, foundation supporting better education and job prospects More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalistsi
X
May 04, 2015 3:32 PM
Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Campaign Raises Money to 'Uncuff' Journalists

Beginning Sunday – World Press Freedom Day – the Committee to Protect Journalists, a private U.S. group, is launching a campaign to bring attention to their plight and encourage efforts to free them. Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Volunteers Pull Together to Aid Baltimore Riot Victims

Calm has returned to Baltimore, Maryland, after authorities lifted an overnight curfew imposed almost a week ago to stem the rioting that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray - the 25-year-old black man who died of spinal injuries suffered while in police custody. Six police officers, three of them African-American, have been charged in connection with his death. Baltimore is now trying to get back to normal, in part with the help of volunteers who responded to calls to help those in the city'
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Obama Praises Work of 3 Immigrant Journalists

President Barack Obama met with three immigrant journalists at the White House Friday to praise them for their work ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3. In attendance: Dieu Cay (his pen name) a blogger from Vietnam recently released from prison; Lily Mengesha from Ethiopia who was harassed and detained for exposing the marrying off of young girls as child brides, and Fatima Tlisova, an ethnic Circassian from the North Caucasus region of Russia, who works for VOA's Russian Service.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs