BAYHAM: Will Congress Flip or Split?

If President Barack Obama is re-elected on Tuesday, his personal political triumph will be counter-balanced by a legislative branch that will be far more hostile to his political agenda.
With the race for the White House going down to the wire, President Obama won’t be providing long coattails for his allies in congressional races across the country and as a consequence will be greeted by a much more conservative Congress in 2013.
The US House of Representatives
As recent as late September, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi predicted that the speaker’s gavel would return to her hands and that the Democrats would flip enough seats in Congress’ lower chamber.
And no matter which polls you believe in the presidential election, there is a far better chance of Mitt Romney being called Mr. President in January than there is of Pelosi being addressed as Madam Speaker.
Real Clear Politics currently has classified 33 of the 435 House seats that are technically up for grabs as true toss ups.
I use the word “technically” since all of the seats in US House of Representatives are on the ballot though due to the advantages of incumbency and partisan gerrymandering, particularly as this marks the first election since redistricting, only a small portion of the total are competitive races.
Of the RCP’s 33 identified contests that could break either way, most are held by the GOP. The Democrats are right now projected to win 6 Republican seats, though those gains will be mostly absorbed by Republican victories in 5 Democratic districts.
The GOP could lose all of the swing seats and still maintain control of the House with a 6 vote cushion. However the Republican Party’s current 240 members won’t be trimmed that drastically. Democrats, aided by a higher voter turnout by their base in a presidential election, will likely increase their share but they likely won’t break 200 members.
The race many Republican activists will have their eyes on Flordia’s 18th District where TEA Party favorite Allen West is in a tough race against Democrat Patrick Murphy. In another high-profile contest, African-American Republican Mia Love is favored to oust Democratic incumbent Jim Matheson in Utah’s 4th District.
Even if Democrats pick up a handful of seats, the chamber is likely to shift further to the right with the departure of the few remaining “Blue Dog” moderate Democrats and their replacement with more conservative Republicans.
Prediction: GOP 235, Democrats 200 with Pelosi announcing her departure from the Democratic leadership before Christmas.
The US Senate
Republicans currently hold 47 seats while the Democrats have 51 seats plus two independents who caucus with them, extending their effective controlling majority to 53.
Republicans had hoped to pick off some low-hanging fruit that came with the 2006 mid-term elections when weaker if not more extreme Democrats were swept into office in a political season with a decidedly anti-Bush sentiment.
Regrettably for the GOP, disappointing losses in the 2010 mid-term plus acts of political seppuku in two races where Republicans were heavily favored have made the path to a majority a bridge too far, especially if the Democratic ticket wins on Tuesday thus handing the presidency of the senate back to Joe Biden.
The Republicans lost a seat when moderate GOP US Senator Olympia Snowe announced her retirement, opening up what will essentially be a Democratic pick up when former Maine governor Angus King wins the vacated seat on Tuesday. Though an independent, King is expected to caucus with the Democrats.
The other tough Republican defense is in Massachusetts where incumbent Scott Brown is locked in a tight race with Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren. Brown’s chances are not helped by his race being decided on the same day that President Obama will win Massachusetts by a wide margin over the state’s former governor. As a New Jersey politico called it, Brown is fighting political gravity as much as his opponent.
A Brown defeat, combined with Maine, would require the GOP to flip six Democratic senate seats to be assured of control of the upper chamber. And that number increased to seven after a TEA Party candidate who was favored to win in Indiana did himself and Romney no favors with his clumsy handling of an abortion question in a debate.
Can the GOP turn seven seats?
But it’s not likely.
The Republican Party’s best hopes of taking control of the senate are contingent on a Romney win, which would drop the threshold by a seat as Paul Ryan would have the tie-breaking vote; another upset by Brown in Massachusetts; and five pick ups out of Nebraska, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Montana.
Prediction: Democrats 50, Republicans 50 with the GOP losing Indiana and Maine, holding on in Massachusetts, picking up Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, Montana and Wisconsin. The Keystone State of Pennsylvania being the wild card in the presidential and senate races.
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