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The 2012 House And Senate Races Matter

Jaspar Abu-Jaber |
November 4, 2012 | 7:09 p.m. PST


The House and Senate races are almost as important as the presidential race. (James Bowe, Creative Commons)
The House and Senate races are almost as important as the presidential race. (James Bowe, Creative Commons)
The president, whoever he may be after the election on Tuesday, will be hamstrung if he cannot work with his legislature.

The Senate is evenly dived between the two parties right now, with a large number of tossups. The way they swing will hugely influence the next four years. With the House of Representatives almost certain to remain firmly under Republican control, Democrats need to come out ahead in the Senate in order to wield any power in the legislature.

As President Obama has learned in the last few years, in the bitterly divided Washington of today each party often prioritizes fighting the other over working to fix the nation’s problems. Regardless of which candidate wins, he will have to work with this reality. Even with the simple majorities that both parties hope to take, the other will have enough members to filibuster, a technique used extensively by Senate Republicans during Obama’s first term to prevent bills from getting through Congress. This will likely be an issue next term as well. However, having a majority in one or both houses will affect the tone and success of the next term almost as much as the president will.

If Obama wins again, the best he can hope for is to keep the Senate and continue to butt heads with House leaders. If Mitt Romney takes the presidency, he can hope for full Republican unity. Of the thirty-three seats up for election, eight are currently considered tossups. These are in Indiana, Main, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Virginia and Wisconsin. Four seats are currently held by Democrats, four by Republicans. It is an equal opportunity for both parties to gain seats. The Democrats have a slight edge, though, as they are projected to take forty-seven of the non-tossup seats regardless, and so only have to win four to take the majority. Republicans would have to win six of the eight to take control.

These tight races have produced some tense moments. Richard Mourdock of Indiana and Missouri’s Todd Akin have drawn considerable fire after explaining their respective beliefs about pregnancy and rape, giving their Democratic opponents opportunities to slam them and gain more support. In Maine, independent Angus King has a solid lead, but has warned both parties that when he wins, “I will take note of how I’m treated in this campaign,” forcing both parties to try and curry his favor. Republican John Ensign, one of Nevada's former senators, recently resigned due to an affair, but the current Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley is facing a Congressional ethics investigation of her own. In Arizona, though it still leans Republican, Democratic challenger Richard H. Carmona has led a stellar campaign while his Republican rival Jeff Flake took a lot of flack during the Republican primary. A well known figure in the state, Carmona caused a bit of a ruckus when he released an ad featuring John McCain and Senator Jon Kyl speaking highly of him in clips from 2002, despite both having endorsed Mr. Flake in this election.

These candidates have received much attention in their respective states, but relatively little attention on the national stage. The people who will help to shape the direction of the United States in the years to come are busy fighting in the states as fiercely as the presidential candidates are fighting across the country. Their victories and defeats will have a major impact on the tone of the years to come, and the ability of the next president to make his vision for the country a reality. May the best candidates win.


Reach Contributor Jaspar Abu-Jaber here.



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