Sunday, 12 June 2016

US Elections

Yes, we all know about the Presidential election in November - but it's not the only game in town. There will be Congressional elections (34 of the 100 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives), plus various State & local elections and some referenda)

Over the next few months, Washminster will (as it has in previous elections) preview some of the key contests.

But let's kick things off with an overview of the Senate. Whatever the result of the Presidential election, the Senate elections could play a key role in setting, or limiting the direction of American politics in coming years. Even the most ambitious, charismatic President could find his or her (isn't it wonderful be be able to write that phrase at last) plans could be derailed by the Senate. ALL legislation must pass the Senate, and confirmations for Executive and Judicial positions must be made by the 100 member body. The rules of the Senate give a lot of power to individual Senators - who can hold up or even block legislation and confirmations.

At present, 34 of the 100 seats will be up for election. The current make-up of the Senate is Republicans 54, Democrats 44 and 2 independants. (Both of these, Bernie Sanders & Angus King, usually vote with the Democrats). A net gain of 4 seats would give the Democrats control if Clinton wins (the Vice-President has the casting vote in the event of a tie). If Trump wins, the Democrats need a net gain of 5. But a bare majority is not the most important outcome for Presidential-Congressional elections. To end a filibuster (a key tool in the arsenal of a minority) 60 votes are needed. If the President has vetoed legislation passed by both Houses, 67 votes are needed to override that veto.

The Democrats have 10 seats to defend. Currently Cook (the Cook Report, a highly regarded forecaster of US elections) lists 8 of these as Solidly Democratic. 1 (Colorado) is classed as leaning Democratic.

But what makes the election exciting is that 24 Republican seats will be contested. 6 are currently thought to be toss-ups by Cook - enough for the Democrats to take control. North Carolina 'leans Republican - so is in British terms, marginal; and 6 'likely Republican - less marginal, but potentially vulnerable. Eleven are seen as Solid.

Five months out, and there is much that could change. However, these are the elections that could define the presidency of Trump or Clinton. Washminster will help you keep your eye on the critical contests.