WASHINGTON— Next month, Americans will elect a president and a new Congress. The political make-up of Congress will help determine whether the next president can enact his agenda in the next four years.
Republicans are expected to retain their House majority, but control of the Senate, where Democrats currently have a majority, is in question. Some of the pivotal contests include a hard-fought Senate race in the state of Virginia.
Republican George Allen is scouring Virginia for votes, including the state’s Asian-American community. His core message: boosting the economy.
“I just want to make sure that every American, regardless of background or ethnicity or religious persuasion, has that equal opportunity to succeed. That is the promise of America,” said Allen.
Economy, Jobs are central focus
Democratic rival Tim Kaine sounds a similar theme at a Jewish community center.
“I am a huge believer in ‘win the talent race, win the economic race.’ Education, workforce development and immigration reform are the core of winning the talent race,” said Kaine.
Both former Virginia governors, Allen and Kaine are competing to fill the seat of retiring Senator Jim Webb, who beat Allen in 2006. The focus of this year’s senate contest mirrors the presidential race, according to political analyst Phil Wallach.
“Nationally and in Virginia, it is jobs, jobs, jobs. All the candidates want to say that their party has a recipe for bringing back jobs,” said Wallach.
One third of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are being contested. Republicans need to gain four to take control.
Once confident of victory, Republican candidates like Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana have hurt their own chances by making widely-criticized comments on rape and abortion.
Some Democrats, meanwhile, have run stronger-than-expected campaigns. In Massachusetts, polls currently favor Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren over Republican Senator Scott Brown.
In Virginia, polls show an even race between Kaine and Allen.
“It is clearly going to be an election that comes down to the wire,” said Wallach.
Virginia Republicans like retired military officer William Hoffat said they are energized.
“The values of George Allen and the values of Mitt Romney echo with immigrant Americans: hard work and making it in this country,” said Hoffat.
Kaine supporter Sheila Levine said President Barack Obama, if re-elected, will need Democrats to work with in Congress.
“We are so polarized right now, and maybe if we can get some more Democrats in Congress, maybe Obama can get something done,” said Levine.
Kaine is pledging to work with members of both parties, to find common ground he has said is missing in Washington. Allen said this race could well decide the balance of power in the Senate.
“However goes Virginia, will go America and our future,” said Allen.
Indeed, voters in this one state could have a major impact on the nation’s political direction for years to come.