| WASHINGTON, Sept 8
WASHINGTON, Sept 8 A Republican win in even one
chamber of the U.S. Congress in the Nov. 2 midterm election
would create a huge shake-up in Washington, with far-reaching
Republicans are growing favorites to capture the 39
Democratic seats they need for a House of Representatives
majority, and could even pick up the 10 Democratic seats they
need to gain Senate control.
Here are some questions and answers about the election and
the impact of a potential Republican victory.
WHAT IS THE MOST LIKELY RESULT?
With two months to go, political handicappers are picking
Republicans to narrowly win a House majority and make big gains
in the Senate, although not enough to give them control.
Charlie Cook of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report wrote
Tuesday that his race-by-race analysis showed Republicans are
poised to gain at least 40 House seats and possibly more.
"The House has reached the tipping point," Cook wrote.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato
raised his prediction for Republican gains last week to 47
In the Senate, Cook predicts a Republican gain of seven to
nine seats. Republicans must retain their own Senate seats and
sweep nearly all of the competitive Democratic seats to win
control, a difficult.
WHY ARE DEMOCRATS IN SUCH TROUBLE?
Worries about the economy, unhappiness with Democratic
leadership in Washington and plummeting confidence in President
Barack Obama have created a perfect political storm.
Obama has seen his approval ratings slide well below 50
percent over the summer, while the number of Americans who
believe the country is on the wrong track has climbed to above
60 percent in most polls.
Most polls show the sweeping healthcare overhaul passed by
Democrats in Congress remains unpopular with a majority of
Americans, and public dissatisfaction with congressional
Democrats is widespread.
Obama's popularity among independents, a crucial bloc that
backed him in 2008, has dipped below 50 percent in many polls,
and Republicans are more enthusiastic about the election and
more likely to vote than Democrats.
Obama and Democrats got no help last week from the latest
jobless report, which showed the unemployment rate inching up
to 9.6 percent.
WHAT KEY RACES COULD DECIDE HOUSE AND SENATE CONTROL?
In the House, Democrats elected in Republican-leaning
districts in 2008 with the help of a heavy Democratic turnout
fueled by Obama's candidacy are struggling to hold their seats
in the face of a growing Republican wave.
The fate of first-term Democratic incumbents like
Virginia's Tom Perriello, Colorado's Betsy Markey, Ohio's John
Boccieri and Florida's Alan Grayson could be crucial to the
balance of power.
In the Senate, a handful of veteran Democrats facing
unexpectedly tough re-election races could decide the outcome,
including Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Russ Feingold
of Wisconsin, Patty Murray of Washington and Barbara Boxer of
Democrats are keeping an eye on two races they thought
would be cakewalks, the Connecticut battle for retiring
Democratic Senator Chris Dodd's seat and the election to
replace late West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd.
If Republicans pull a surprise win in either state it could
be the end for Democratic Senate hopes.
WHAT WOULD REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP IN CONGRESS MEAN?
A Republican win in either the House or Senate, or both,
could mean gridlock and political conflict -- and plenty of
Republican majorities would slam the brakes on Obama's
legislative agenda, but would find it nearly impossible to pass
new initiatives that did not have considerable Democratic
Even if Republicans muscled partisan bills through the
House, Democrats in the Senate would be able to block them
through either majority votes or a procedural tactic that takes
60 votes to overcome.
That could mean Republicans will be forced to work with
moderate Democrats in both chambers if they want to pass
legislation -- particularly since Obama will be waiting to veto
any bill that does not pass muster among Democrats.
Republican majorities would put House leader John Boehner
and Senate leader Mitch McConnell in charge, and they would set
the agendas for their chambers while trying to manage more
conservative Republican caucuses.
Republicans also would run committees and gain subpoena
power that would make it easy to investigate the Obama
administration and force witnesses to testify.
WHAT ISSUES WOULD A REPUBLICAN CONGRESS FOCUS ON?
On the campaign trail, Republicans have pushed lower
spending, the extension of expiring tax breaks and the repeal
of the healthcare overhaul.
Undoing key elements of the Obama agenda -- the stimulus
spending and the healthcare bill -- would be a high Republican
priority. Democrats, however, probably would have enough
backing to block the moves in the Senate, and Obama would veto
the effort anyway.
On foreign policy, Obama's troop escalation in Afghanistan
drew support from most Republicans, with the prime opposition
coming from his fellow Democrats. His planned troop withdrawal
next year would likely draw Republican opposition, however.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE 2012 WHITE HOUSE RACE?
A Democratic loss would be a bruising blow to Obama, who
entered the White House with high public hopes in January 2009.
He has helped push through Congress a broad economic stimulus
bill and ambitious overhauls of the healthcare system and
But the loss also would free Obama to engage in direct
battle with Republican congressional leaders and presidential
contenders, giving him a new set of political foils and
somewhere else to point the finger of blame when things go
Obama would have a role model in former President Bill
Clinton, a Democrat who saw Republicans capture Congress in a
1994 sweep two years into his term.
But Clinton easily won re-election in 1996 after moving to
the center and winning a budget showdown with Republican House
Speaker Newt Gingrich over the closing of the federal
WHAT IS AT STAKE FOR THE REPUBLICAN PARTY?
Win or lose, Republicans face an internal battle over the
future of the party after this year's success of the grassroots
conservative "Tea Party" movement.
The movement, which favors limited government, low taxes
and less government spending, could be well represented in the
new Congress and push the party and its presidential contenders
to the right.