Just a week before the midterm elections, Republicans and Democrats are in sharp contrast in tone and content, as both party leaders scramble to turn out voters in the first national referendum on the presidency of Donald Trump.
Much is at stake come November 6th. Republicans could lose control of both houses of Congress, Democrats could gain an opportunity to launch investigations into the Trump White House and at local levels 87 of the 99 state legislature chambers and 36 governorships could change sides.
Experts say it is difficult to predict outcomes on November 6th, as Republicans try to defend their Capitol Hill majorities and Democrats try to upend the all-Republican government and narrow Republican advantages in state capitals. Some forecasters are predicting voter turnout could reach 50%, levels not reached since the midterms between 1962-1970 years. It is perhaps no coincidence that those elections spanned a politically turbulent era.
At the same time, despite of a wave of election-season violence, the contentious midterm campaign has gone forward with little pause. President Donald Trump and other politicians disavowed last week’s pipe bomb packages and condemned the past weekend’s massacre of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, but the divisiveness that has dominated the nation’s politics has kept creeping back.
Most election experts favour the Republicans to maintain control of the Senate, For Republicans, losing control of the Senate would mean granting Democrats free rein to attack the president’s agenda. Democrats face an uphill battle to win control of the senate, as 10 Democratic senators are up for re-election in states won by Trump in 2016. One of those is Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator Bob Casey, who is running against Republican challenger Lou Barletta.
As for Congress, Democrats will have their biggest opportunity to provide a check on Trump’s power in the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats are up for election. Experts predict there is around an 85% chance Democrats will win a majority in the House. They need a 24-seat net gain to win control.
Now the Democrats’ final pitch to voters is largely focusing on the key issues of health care and the economy. Republicans are warning of a dangerous caravan of migrants heading to the southern border, “mobs” of left-wing radicals, and a biased liberal media generating “fake news” stories about Trump.
Democrats have largely scrapped any focus on social issues in favour of a short list of economic measures they deem more crucial for attracting voters in key battleground districts.
Although they’ve long fought for policies like immigration reform, tougher gun laws and voting rights protection, their “For the People” agenda features just three topics of interest, cutting health care costs, boosting wages and reining in what they call government corruption.