There are three trends to watch as the midterm elections approach, says Fox News analyst Juan Williams: public opinion, the "civil war" in the Republican Party, and Democrats' efforts to stop GOP gerrymandering.
There are many races across the country, but the key race will be in Louisiana between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu and her Republican challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy, Williams writes Monday in an opinion piece for The Hill
There is a "relatively minor" third candidate, Rob Maness, who is favored by tea party supporters and who could affect the vote, said Williams.
In Louisiana, a candidate must have more than 50 percent of the vote to win, and polls predict a likely runoff
between Landrieu and Cassidy.
If a runoff is ordered, Republicans may not know whether they have seized the Senate away from Democrats until December, Williams writes.
But there are many races dependent on the "mystery factor" of an unprecedented level of public disapproval, said Williams, pointing to a Washington Post poll that shows most Americans disapprove of their state's representation.
In addition, nearly 80 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the whole political system, and polls are putting "the Republican brand in Congress at an unprecedented low," said Williams.
However, Williams said that history points to losses for Democrats because the party holding the White House in a second term loses seats, especially when the president has low public ratings, like Obama's.
But the often-quoted Wall Street Journal/NBC poll
released last week showing Obama's disappointment rating at 54 percent also showed that 54 percent of the voters view congressional Republicans negatively, said Williams.
The war inside the GOP is also leading to uncertainty, said Williams. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, hopes to gain enough seats to bypass the tea party-backed 15 or so members who "undercut his efforts," Williams said.
Gerrymandering is also coming into play, as changes in district maps have solidified the GOP's advantage in the House, even though 1.4 million more voters favored Democrats in the 2012 House elections.
Democrats do have grounds for optimism on the state level, where Republican governors are becoming unpopular in some states, said Williams..
There are three races at the top of Democrats' wish list. Pennsylvania Republican Gov. Tom Corbett was elected in 2010 as part of a tea party wave that also brought a Republican majority in the state legislature. But Corbett's policies on education and abortion have proven unpopular with many Pennsylvanians.
Florida incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Scott is also in a dead heat with Charlie Crist, his Republican-turned-Democrat predecessor.
Scott has come under fire for voter identification law policies and for his own anti-abortion agenda, said Williams.
Kansas is also a key target, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback fighting off a challenge by Democrat Paul Davis. The polls are bouncing back and forth, and while Brownback follows a tea party agenda, other current and former Republican officials have publicly supported Davis.
"Democrats might not be able to keep the GOP from winning back the Senate," Williams concluded. "Their consolation prize just might be winning the governors’ mansions and putting themselves in a strong position heading into the next round of redistricting."
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