Democrats may have to curtail their legislative goals in the U.S. House next year even if they retain control of the chamber, a Democratic leader said.
“It may well be the case that there are some issues that we would have gotten passed last time that would not be able to pass this time,” Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen, who is leading the Democratic efforts to retain control of the House of Representatives, said today in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
President Barack Obama’s Democrats are struggling to keep control of the House and Senate in the Nov. 2 midterm elections as Republicans seek to tap voter anger over the economy and a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.
“There’s a great chance that we take the House,” Kevin McCarthy, a California representative who was in charge of recruiting House candidates for Republicans, said today on CNN. “We’re running to win the majority. We’re not running to be a minority party.”
In a Gallup poll conducted Sept. 13-16, 61 percent of respondents cited the economy or jobs as the most important problems facing the country. Revised estimates for the worst recession since the 1930s show the U.S. lost 8.73 million jobs, the Labor Department said Oct. 8, from the 8.36 million currently on the books.
Democrats this year may lose at least 40 seats in the House, costing the party control, and as many as 9 of its 59 Senate seats, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In a Sept. 10-14 New York Times/CBS News poll, only 34 percent said their representative in Congress deserved re- election and 55 percent said it was time for someone new.
Deficit an Issue
Republicans are making the federal deficit a campaign issue, with some candidates saying they will support measures that lower government spending.
“We should freeze the federal hiring and freeze wages -- again, not going to make a big dent,” Linda McMahon, a Republican campaigning for a U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, said today on “This Week” on ABC News. “We should take the balance of the stimulus money and pay down the debt.”
McMahon also said that if elected she wouldn’t serve more than two six-year terms as a senator.
“I would only seek a second term if I really felt I had been effective in my first term,” she said.
While the administration has touted its $814 billion stimulus plan as the means to create jobs, it devoted much of its attention earlier this year to passing health-care and financial-regulatory legislation and the response to the BP Plc oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
“What I know about people is that they vote for the person, not necessarily the party,” Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, the Democrat who is running against McMahon for U.S. Senate, said today on “This Week.”
Democrats are also being buffeted by voter complaints about tax dollars having gone to firms paying million-dollar bonuses, concern over budget deficits and objections that it was unfair for the government to rescue banks that caused the crisis.
“We know the errors by current Democratic government: It has exploded the size of budget, incurred more debt,” Republican Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia said today on “Fox News Sunday.”
“We need to cut spending, rein in the size of government and get people back to work,” Cantor said.
A Pew Research Center poll released Oct. 6 showed that 46 percent of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP bailout, while only 13 percent would be more likely.
Political campaigns have spent $50 million on television advertisements criticizing the bailout, according to Evan Tracey, president of Kantar Media’s CMAG in Arlington, Virginia, which tracks political ads.
Republicans including Cantor, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Representative Paul Ryan, as well as Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, voted for the bailout in October 2008, heeding warnings by then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that failure to act could lead to economic turmoil.
The Tea Party, a coalition of voters seeking limits on government spending, taxes and debt, is mounting a nationwide effort to get voters to the polls. In a Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 71 percent of Republicans described themselves as tea- party supporters, saying they had a favorable image of the movement or hoped tea-party candidates would do well.
“There is a stranglehold on the Republican Party by the Tea Party,” Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, said on Fox News.
Republicans “have this ideological purity test, and it’s being moved even farther to the right by the Tea Party candidates,” Van Hollen said today.
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