By Sam Tarr
October 30 2016: The Massasoit Tribune
Regardless of who wins the Presidential election on November 8th, it will be difficult for either side to accomplish its agenda without the help of congress. Republicans took control of the Senate in 2014, seizing power in both houses of congress, and have successfully blocked President Obama throughout the conclusion of his administration.
So, despite a developing “October Surprise,” presently Hilary Clinton is ahead in the polls. Democrats are looking not only to win the White House, but pick up the seats necessary to regain control of the Senate on November 8th. As of now, Nate Silver’s 538.com election forecast gives Democrats a 72.9% chance of doing just that.
The gridlock in Washington D.C. throughout the Obama administration, has illustrated the importance for the two major political parties to emphasize down-ballot races as well as the top of the ticket.
Since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, the Supreme Court has been operating with 8 justices. Republicans in the Senate have refused to hold a hearing on Obama’s nominee to that position, Merrick Garland.
In September Congress denied President Obama’s request for emergency funding to fight Zika, the mosquito transmitted virus popping up in Florida.
That is why the President was in Florida just two days after the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled spending on the state’s senate race. Officially there campaigning for Hillary Clinton, the President pushed for Democratic challenger, Rep. Patrick Murphy.
“If you think that the slogan, ‘Vote for us because we’re going to give you gridlock’-if you think that’s a good slogan–then you should vote Republican,” Obama said to supporters at the Florida rally. “I need you not just to vote for Hillary, but I need you to vote up and down the ticket.”
Murphy has been making slight gains in some polls against incumbent Senator Marco Rubio. Real Clear Politics still has the state in the “lean Republican,” category. Nate Silver’s 538 election forecast is more definitive, giving Rubio an 80.2% chance of holding his seat.
But as Republicans move towards holding in Florida, incumbent Republican senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, has done little to help his cause for reelection.
Kirk, who was down 7 points in the latest RCP average earlier in the month, was walking back a racially tinged put-down of Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth during Thursday’s debate. Duckworth, an Iraq veteran whose mother is of Thai descent, lost both her legs while piloting a helicopter, before successfully running for Congress.
Duckworth pointed out that her family “has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution.”
“I forgot your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington” Kirk said. Duckworth’s father, a former U.S. Marine, does trace his family back to the American Revolution. Kirk later issued an apology.
Recent polls have also shown discouraging numbers for Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Republican from New Hampshire. Ayotte has struggled in defining her position on the Republican Presidential Nominee Donald Trump. In a debate with Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, Ayotte said she “absolutely” viewed Trump as a role model for children. Later she said she “misspoke.”
Ayotte has since pulled her support of the Republican nominee since the revelation of the Access Hollywood tape which rocked the Trump campaign early in the month. Hassan Communications Director, Aaron Jacobs, seized on the momentum.
“New Hampshire voters see clearly,” Jacobs said, “everything’s a political calculation with Kelly Ayotte, from her calculated move to retract her support for Donald Trump after reiterating her support for him more than 35 times.” Jacobs looked to work off a poll showing Hassan up 8 points. However, the RCP average of all the polls still has Ayotte with a slight lead.
The closest races seem to be in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Missouri, and Nevada.
Republicans Joe Heck of Nevada, Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Democrat Katie McGinty of Pennsylvania all have a 1% or less leads in the RCP averages. McGinty’s opponent, Sen. Pat Toomey as well as Joe Heck are both distancing themselves from Donald Trump.
With ten days until the election it seemed as if these Senate races would be the focus for both parties. That was until Director of the F.B.I, James Comey sent a letter to lawmakers, disclosing a new batch of Hilary Clinton’s e-mails discovered in a separate investigation. Comey said the e-mails “appeared to be pertinent,” to the investigation, and they were considering them.
It also remains to be seen how this latest “October surprise,” will determine the way these Senate candidates run alongside or away from their party’s standard-bearers. These unprecedentedly unpopular Presidential candidates continue to impact down-ballot races, as the GOP and Dems battle for control of the Senate.