If the Democrats lose, Biden is a lame duck
By the time we finish breakfast tomorrow morning, we should have a pretty good idea of where the off-year (when there’s no presidential) US election will go. Why is this so important? And why should anyone outside of the United States really care?
Traditionally, off-year elections have seen the president’s party, in this case the Democrats, take a beating in the House of Representatives and, to a lesser extent, the Senate. As things stand, the Democrats have very tenuous control over Congress. In the House, they only have a majority of five and in the most powerful chamber, the 100-member Senate, it’s 50 each and only the casting vote of the vice president gives them control.
So, for President Joe Biden, the odds of one or both houses going red (Republican) is a strong possibility and a major concern. If the Democrats lose both houses, he will become a dead duck president, for the last two years of his presidency, with little or no power to police legislation. If the Democrats manage to retain the Senate, then he has some leeway, but will still be a lame president, as legislation must be approved by both chambers.
Control of the Senate is essential for Biden because this chamber is more equal than the House of Representatives. It is the Senate that votes solely on federal appointments, ranging from justices (including Supreme Court justices) to secretaries (ministers) to ambassadors. Judicial appointments, given the enormous power of the US federal courts, have made this a very bloody political battleground. Since 2012, when Republicans regained control of the Senate, they have worked to create a conservative court system, which they succeeded with a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court.
So how close are Democrats to losing control of the Senate? Very close. In just under two months, Democrats seem to have gone from a majority situation to crossing their fingers and hoping for the best. Fivethirtyeight, America’s best-known polling analysis site, now gives Republicans a 54% chance of winning the Senate. For Democrats, it’s a 25-point drop from 71 to 46 six weeks ago.
White women, to begin with, have changed. The Wall Street Journal polls showed Democrats leading among white women by 12% in August, now Republicans are ahead 15 points. That’s a 27% swing in two months.
Anger over the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe’s pro-abortion ruling in favor of states doing their own thing appears to have dissipated as Republicans tackle inflation, crime and the immigration apparently won back the suburban women’s vote.
The other Republican gain continues to be among Hispanics, the largest non-white ethnic group. Once solidly Democratic, their support has dwindled since Obama’s heady days when he led Republicans by 40% in that vote bank. Today, The Washington Post reports that Hispanic support for Democrats is below 2018 levels, as the conservative Catholic Hispanic community worries equally about abortion, crime, inflation and even immigration.
Yet, because America is so polarized, there are only a few Senate seats that are truly competitive. The race is tightest in the very states that determined the last two presidential elections – Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
That would put Republicans in control of the Senate.
A Republican majority in the Senate would be a double whammy, given that for the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for grabs every two years, there is near unanimity for Republicans to take control. The question that is debated is that of the extent of the Republican victory.
A Republican Congress could well bring Biden’s presidency to its knees. With budget and committee control, they could:
– Force cuts in Social Security and Medicare spending
– Less taxes
– Refuse to increase the level of debt, thus forcing to reduce spending
– Influencing foreign policy by stopping aid to Ukraine
– Cut support for environmental policies
– Cause a government lockdown if Biden agrees to the above
— Stop Jan. 6 investigations into Trump’s role
– Institute hearings on the Biden administration
– Push for greater immigration controls
The swing to Republicans could also have a huge impact in states with gubernatorial and house elections.
Oregon and New York, traditionally liberal Democrats, find their gubernatorial candidates in much closer battles than expected.
Republicans are also poised to win super majorities in states like Wisconsin and North Carolina, which would allow them to override Democratic governors’ vetoes.
A big Republican victory will also draw many Trump(er) Republicans into its ranks. Trump has endorsed more than 200 candidates for the Senate, House and State Houses; their victories will be seen as essential to Trump claiming control of the party and will influence his decision to declare his candidacy for president for 2024 as early as next week.
What are you looking for on the morning of November 9? If the silent majority Democrats hope emerges, there could be close Senate races in North Carolina and Ohio. If the Republicans win in New Hampshire, then Biden is in big trouble.
(Ishwari Bajpai is a senior adviser at NDTV.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.
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