Congress, course of country await judgement in Nov. 7 elections

Nearly two years have passed since President Bush was re-elected, it is getting colder outside, Halloween has passed and the month of November is here.

What does that mean? It’s election time!

What is the focus of the 2006 midterm elections? Why do they matter? What’s at stake?

The House is comprised of 435 representative and all are up for reelection. There are currently 231 Republicans, 201 Democrats, one Independent and two vacancies in office.

In order for the Democrats to win the House, they need to gain 15 seats. About 30 races are considered in play, according to a CNN analysis. “Though redistricting over the years has erected walls protecting GOP incumbents, dissatisfaction with President Bush and the Iraq war could swing the House to Democratic control,” it said.

With widespread frustration over the war in Iraq and ousted Republican Rep. Mark Foley’s sexual harassment of congressional pages, power may shift to the Democrats on Nov. 7.

“It’s not fun being a Republican candidate this year,” said Frank Sesno, CNN special correspondent and professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. “The issue is will there be a wave of voter sentiment that nationalizes the election? Will there be a wave of frustration [for Iraq] that fuels [voters to support] the Democrats? Or, a wave of fear that fuels [votes for] the Republicans?”

There are 100 seats in the Senate and one third of the body goes up for re-election every two years. 15 Republican, 17 Democratic and 1 Independent senator are up this year.

Democrats need to win six seats to gain control of the Senate.

“Republicans are in deep trouble in Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio and Rhode Island,” said Washington Post reporter Dan Balz in a Sept. 20 report. “Contests in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia are considered toss-ups. Republicans appear to have just one chance to pick up a Democratic seat and that is in New Jersey.”

Then there are the governors’ races. Will California reelect “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger? Will Massachusetts elect the second black governor in U.S. history? Will Nevada, Illinois or Alaska place a woman at the top?

Currently, there are more Republican governors than Democratic. Thirty-six governors are up for election, 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats.

There are four main subjects being focused on in this election: the economy, the war in Iraq, moral issues and immigration reform.

Americans will vote on candidates based on their positions on tax cuts, minimum wage increases, plans to pull troops from Iraq, stem cell research, same-sex marriage and issues regarding illegal immigration.

A CNN poll conducted from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15 found that 64 percent of adults disapprove of how President Bush is “handling the situation in Iraq.”

An Oct. 27 Newsweek poll found that 45 percent of Americans believe the Democrats “will do a better job handling the war,” compared to 33 percent supporting the Republicans.

An Oct. 22 Gallup Poll found that 67 percent of adults nationwide disapprove of the current Congress.

Do these “snapshot” polls foretell a change in the government? And even if they do, will it matter?

“It matters a lot whether the house remains in Republican hands or moves to Democrats, it will utterly alter the political discourse and process . and, let’s not forget this will help set the tone and direction of the 2008 presidential campaign,” Sesno said.

The elections will determine the future course of the Iraq war and of the president’s final years in office. Policies will be drafted, lives will be changed and Washington, D.C. will never be quite the same.

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