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US midterm elections: Will Republicans clip Biden's wings?

There is a historical pattern of anti-incumbency winning, ie the President's party losing, in midterms. On top of that Biden's approval rating has also plummeted and the earlier momentum built up over abortion and gun violence has given way to issues like inflation, spiraling crime rates and illegal immigration. Economy takes precedence over social issues. However, the contests are nip and tuck, there is uncertainty who wins in the toss-up.

A media analysis sees Republicans winning the House with the Democrats losing 20 seats. In the Senate, a majority could give them (Republicans) the power to block Biden's nomination of judges, any new abortion law and gun controls etc., checkmating the Prez. They would even go for Biden's impeachment (in retaliation)! But that kind of majority may be elusive. Because the Republicans are a disunited political party right now.

by RM Nair

WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov 4: Early voting in the US midterm elections of November 8 is going on under the shadow of unprecedented inflation. President Joe Biden cast his vote in his hometown of Wilmington in the eastern State of Delaware last Saturday.

All the 435 seats in the House of Representatives are on the ballot, as also 35 (from 34 States) of the 100 Senate seats. Every time, that is every two years, a third of the seats of the upper chamber goes to the polls. A Senator serves a six-year term. On the other hand, every two years there is election to the full House. Five of the six non-voting members of territories are also elected this time.

Thirty six States and three territories will also have elections alongwith the midterms for Governors. There are also State legislatures, school boards and other local offices that will be on ballots. Notable Guv contests are Democrat Stacey Abrams against Republican Guv. Brian Kemp in Georgia, Republican Tudor Dixon vs Democratic Guv. Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Democrat Beto O'Rourke opposing Republican Guv. Greg Abbott in Texas.

Midterms take place halfway through the President's term of four years. Biden was elected in 2020, and so the midterms happen this year.

At present Democrats have control of both the chambers of Congress, apart from the presidency. Losing either will erode Biden's powers in the remaining two years. In the Senate both are 50:50 (Democrats 48 with two Independents supporting) but the Vice-President's tie-breaking vote can tilt the balance in favour of the Democrats. In the House too the balance is fragile: 220-212. There are two Democrats and one Republican vacancies. The majority mark is 218 in the House currently led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Complex numbers & Senate toss-up

In the present 50:50 Senate, of the 65 Senate seats not up for grabs, 36 belong to the Democrats and 29 to the Republicans. That is, of the 35 seats on the ballot, 14 are currently held by the Democrats and 21 by Rebublicans. Therefore, in the midterm the Republicans must win more than 21 of the 35 going to the polls. Six Republican Senators and one Democratic Senator are not seeking reelection. That is 15 Republicans and 13 Democrats are running for reelection. So most of the Republican new faces will have an uphill task. Small advantage for Dems!

Post-election scenario

There is a pattern that the ruling party takes the beating in the midterms - history charts pointing to an anti-incumbency push. It will not be surprising if the Republicans wrest control of Congress, especially as there is seemingly widespread voter discontent, giving tough time to the Democrats. Besides, Biden has currently a low approval rating. However, the contests are very close and there is uncertainty who wins.

If winning either chamber, Republicans will throw a spanner in Biden's works. Like any abortion Bill to negate the Supreme Court ruling of last summer will fail. They would even be able to impeach Biden. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has already declared the intention of some Republicans to go for Biden's impeachment in retaliation. They can challenge the search of former President Donald Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. They can also block Biden's nominations for appointments of federal judges countrywide with a Senate majority. During Trump's time they had occasion to make three nominations to the apex court.

Electoral forecast

The main issues are Inflation, crime, illegal immigration, voting rights, threat to democracy, abortion, gun violence, Ukraine, among others.

FiveThirtyEight forecast says the Republicans will win the House and the Democrats the Senate. A Reuters analysis sees a Republican wave and loss of 20 seats of the Democrats in the House.

Most pollsters say the Republicans have taken the lead recently while a month ago the Democrats seemed to have had the advantage especially after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and over issues of gun violence and democracy. Falling gas prices and Biden’s surprising legislative successes also contributed to that wave in favour of the Dems. But today, pollsters say the Republicans have turned the tables on their rivals. They have inflation and spike in crimes to beat the Dems with. Almost certainly they will take the House.

Moreover, the President’s party always loses in midterm elections. Biden's approval rating too is down to 40 % now.

Dems are on the defensive in New York, Rhode Island, California and Oregon. In the key Senate races, like Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona Dem is neck and neck with the Republicans who have weak candidates in the running. The Senate races in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Wisconsin, Florida and Ohio are toss-up.

Michigan and Kansas may favour the Dems as abortion stays an issue there.

However, economy has come to take precedence over social issues like abortion.

Many have voted already. Till Thursday, 32 million had voted early. However, the turnout in midterms is usually low.

Biden's claims

After casting his vote Biden said midterms are not a "referendum" and that he is "feeling good".

But Biden claims the economy is doing better on his watch. “The economy is up, price inflation is down, real incomes are up, gas prices are down and need to come down further,” Mr. Biden told a rally of supporters in New Mexico Thursday. Biden also sought credit on his administration’s student debt relief programme. Kamala Harris boasted of Biden administration policies over child tax credit, the infrastructure bill and appointing the first Black woman to the Supreme Court.

Election laws

Election laws change from State to State vis-a-vis voter registration, absentee ballots, early voting, in-person voting etc.

What is absentee in-person voting? “Absentee in-person” refers to the process of voting in-person any time during the 45 days before Election Day. It is commonly referred to as “early voting.”

Where can one vote early? One can vote early at one's local general registrar’s office. There may also be additional locations where one can vote early. No application is required to vote early. The voter will simply go and vote with an ID.

Absentee voting: Citizens who are registered to vote may apply for an absentee ballot and can vote by post. Provisions change from State to State.

Tracking: One can track absentee mail ballot both ways.

Total all-party spending for the midterm is calculated at $16.7 billion, helped by billionaires. It was $14 b in 2018.


SELECTIONS FROM OUR ARCHIVES

Five people were arrested from a banquet hall in Sector 51 Noida on Thursday where they were called to hold a rave party in a trap laid by the animal rights group, PFA. They named Yadav but he was not present.

Betting through Dubai-based Mahadev Book in India is conducted through a countrywide network. Probes reveal that the online gambling is worth several millions and top politicians, officials and celebs have been beneficiaries.

TAILPIECE: Polling dates for some States are round the corner. Top politicians have begun their acrimonious debate who looted more, even as Mahadev is washing their dirty laundry in the open ghat. Come what may, one needs to seize power to amass "thy wretched pelf!" One simple question is, why else one should spend lakhs or crores to get elected! A question every Indian should ask to oneself at least once a day!

His inaction amounts to defeating the rights of the people of the State to welfare measures sought to be implemented through the Bills, the Kerala Government's petition submitted, while the State of Tamil Nadu remarked that its "Governor is acting as a political rival."

Tailpiece: Coming up back to back, the petitions in their totality seem to question the provision of Raj Bhavan, and not motives of a Governor as a person.

Hundreds of cars piled up behind the wreckage of crashes occurring one after other in backing up - continuous crashes to the rhythm of metallic clanks and bangs back to back. According to reports, some ops required 'Jaws of Life' to pull apart the mangled cars to save lives inside.

The pilots struggled with Emerson to thwart a shut-off as he reached for the T-handles (see pix). Later he admitted to police he had taken psychedelic mushrooms and had a "nervous breakdown."

Doctors reasoned how the incidence of heart attacks is spiking over time and advise the simple way to play safely is to take a break and rehydrate yourself.

But how come ten people, including children, die of cardiac arrest at Garba in 24 hours, and that at different places of Gujarat? Garba had been going on for six days, and every year it is celebrated.

The killing of a teacher in France by an Islamic radical last Friday is linked to the Israel-Hamas war in West Asia, say authorities.

Shocking news from the UK: Leading grocers have started bribing policemen with free food and drinks to persuade them to take action against shoplifters.

Shoplifting has risen by about 27 per cent in 10 major cities across the UK this year. The cost of retail crime last year was $2.15 billion. Besides, “We are seeing organised gangs threatening staff with weapons and emptying stores," Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said. Data shows that the police failed to respond to 73 per cent of serious retail crimes that included assault and abuse of workers, apart from shoplifting.

Isar Mohammad allegedly picked up a banana offered to Ganesh idol on Chaturthi at a makeshift temple in Delhi and consumed it.

Harris said hip-hop is “the ultimate American art form” that “shapes every aspect of American popular culture.” “Hip-hop culture is American culture,” she said in a talk at her official residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

The social media had mixed reaction. There was much appreciation that she dances better than any VP in American history. But some called her "moves" as “cringe” while others did not like her pink pants - "pink pants don’t look good.” In fact, her ensembles have always been incongruous.

"Let’s see how the (Governor's) Vice-Chancellors are given salary." Mamata's extreme statements will put the Marxist Government in Kerala, which is also facing similar issues, to shame. Has she begun the countdown for a war on the streets?

It's true Mamata has come to see a conspiracy to demolish the established systems across the country, but lacks the ability to foresee what exactly is being pushed.

Brandishing a sword, Mahant Paramhans told reporters on Tuesday he himself will behead MK Stalin's son for his remarks against Sanatan Dharma in case nobody came forward to accept his offer he made in his video. Udhayanidhi reacted to the saint's Monday video, "I will speak more. I am the grandson of the artist who put his head on the rail track for Tamil Nadu."

Somanath elaborated, "I am an explorer. I explore the Moon. I explore the inner space. So it's a part of the journey of my life to explore both science and spirituality. So I visit many temples and I read many scriptures. So try to find the meaning of our existence and our journey in this cosmos. So it's a part of the culture that we are all built to explore, find out the inner self as well as outer self. So for the outer, I do science, for the inner I come to temples." (See videos)

Rao the mathematical legend had fathered the path-breaking Rao-Blackwell theorem, one of the most important theorems in mathematical statistics, at the age of 25. That brought him global fame. He is also famous for his Cramér-Rao Bound inequality theorem relating to quality of estimators in statistics which has had a profound bearing on applications of modern economics and several other diverse fields. Simply put, with the pioneering statistician computation became a tool to analyse even socio-economic challenges of modern times.

The alleged incident has received such a flash publicity that a standardised city's hugely middle class population will have second thoughts about eating outside for some time. Now everything on the table looks suspicious!

“All subjects directly connected to the people should be shifted to the State List. Particularly the subject of education. Only if this is done can cruel exams like NEET be abolished,” Stalin said. Education was moved from the State List to the Concurrent List with the 42nd Constitution Amendment made by the Central Government in 1976.

Decentralisation has been at the core of Tamil politics since the times of CN Annadurai. Stalin indicated there will be political changes in the offing.

TAILPIECE: While the Centre and the States are at loggerheads, it takes a different cognitive acumen to know that entrance tests are not the way for students' admission to courses.

As recently as Tuesday Craig Robertson had posted on Facebook: "Perhaps Utah will become famous this week as the place a sniper took out Biden the Marxist." Biden was scheduled to make his first visit to Utah as President Wednesday afternoon.

Maruti is recalling 87,599 S-Presso and Eeco vehicles to inspect and possibly replace parts in the steering system. All reputed companies around the world do recall their products when a defect comes to light.

Meanwhile, a question arises why just in about a year so many accidents have taken place involving Mercedes sent to India while the car has won safety awards abroad? In most cases, the vehicle collided with divider, while manoeuvring a turn. Was there a split second delay in the steering system coming to a grip when at high speed? Did anybody in India bother to study a pattern in several of these accidents that took place one after other?

Former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry died when his Mercedes-Benz-SUV hit a divider in Gujarat. Cricketer Rishabh Pant's Mercedes-Benz-SUV rammed a divider in Uttarakhand and smashed. It went up in flames but he escaped with injuries. Brother of PM Narendra Modi, Prahlad Modi's Mercedes-Benz-SUV met with a similar accident in Mysuru. And many more.

  • Experts blame violation of the Visual Flying Rules (VFR) for most of the chopper crashes in the mountains as the leading cause. VFR means fly only visually - because of the lack of navigation aids in remote areas or unreliability of GPS-like aids in hilly terrains or a remote manipulation of instruments in cases of sabotage - as the topography plays havoc especially in the monsoon (mid-June to September).
  • Even when VFR is followed, most crashes occur due to CFIT (Controlled Flight into Terrain) - that is, everything else is OK but the aircraft collides with hills or trees hidden by the clouds. This also occurs mostly in the monsoon.
  • On Tueday with Manang, the chopper was brand new, pilot was highly experienced. But it hit an 'invisible' tree and then crashed against a hillside. This CFIT occurred when the pilot tried to dodge patches of clouds even as he was following the VFR.
  • Simply put, everyone knows flying in the hills during the monsoon is risky, but the companies want to make more money in any which case. This type of tragedy is very frequently invited in the Indian hill State of Uttarakhand as well, where pilots are even made to fly without the mandatory rest.
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