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Republicans Expect Gains In US November Election

In U.S. politics, opposition Republicans remain confident as they look ahead to November's midterm congressional elections, expecting that they will gain seats at the expense of Democrats.  But most political experts remain unsure about whether Republicans will gain enough seats to retake control of the House of Representatives, the Senate, or both.

Public opinion polls suggest Americans are in a volatile mood these days, and opposition Republicans believe that will carry them to victory in midterm congressional elections in November.

House Republicans launched a new initiative this week called America Speaking Out, an effort to tap into voter unrest around the country and shape a Republican political agenda for the coming campaign.

"All across America, Americans are speaking out.  Unfortunately, they don't see Washington Democrats listening.  When you look at all the taxes, all the spending and all the debt, it is clear that Washington has been doing what Washington thinks is best, not what's best for America," said Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader.

Republicans are increasingly confident this year because approval ratings for the Democratic-led Congress are dismal, and because President Barack Obama's poll ratings have also slipped down to around 50 percent in most surveys.

Republicans also have history on their side this election year.  The party that controls the White House traditionally loses seats in a new president's first midterm election.

"The first congressional elections after a presidential race are essentially a referendum on the president.  The voters don't have any way to vote for or against the president, so they essentially, to simply things, they express their sentiment about the president in their votes for Congress," said David Hawkings, managing editor of Congressional Quarterly Weekly.

Polls show many Americans are concerned that the government is spending too much and increasing the national debt.  That has also become a rallying cry for members of the so-called Tea Party movement, grassroots conservatives who have become active around the country.

Tea Party supporters have rallied to conservative Republican candidates in numerous primary races including the recent Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky, won by Tea Party favorite Rand Paul.

Paul is the son of former presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, and like his father, Rand Paul is a strong advocate of limiting the power of the central government. "People don't like the arrogance, the arrogance of officialdom, the arrogance of power," Rand Paul said.

Paul quickly created controversy after his primary win by questioning an important civil rights law from the 1960's and by seeming to come to the defense of the oil company BP in the wake of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Paul subsequently backed away from his criticism of the civil rights laws, but analysts said his comments reflected some of the political risks associated with the Tea Party movement.

Democrats are well-aware that 2010 is shaping up as a difficult political year, but remain determined to limit their losses in November.

Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine says President Obama will play a key role in this year's election campaign in convincing voters that his administration and Democrats in Congress have achieved success, especially on the economy and passage of the health care reform law.

"In the face of near-united Republican opposition, the president and Democrats have taken bold action to turn the economy around, lay a foundation for long term prosperity and provide greater choices and opportunities for the American people.  But there is still a lot to be done and the president can't do it alone," Kane said.

But the health care law remains politically polarizing, and its critics regard it as the latest example of big-government overreach in Washington.

"We live in strange times.  This is a mood, a public mood of anger about all institutions, whether it is Wall Street or political parties or Washington in general, people are not happy and they don't like establishment figures," said Richard Wolffe, a political analyst for MSNBC television and frequent guest on VOA's Issues in the News program.

Hawkings predicts an intense congressional election campaign later this year, but he says Republicans continue to have the upper hand. "The Democrats are going to see some setbacks.  The only question is whether those setbacks will be so deep that the House of Representatives will turn to a Republican majority and maybe even the Senate as well.  But that is a much longer shot," he said.

Republicans need a gain of 40 seats to win back a majority in the House and ten seats to retake control of the Senate.  They lost control of both chambers in the 2006 congressional midterm elections.

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