With every indication that the Presidential race will be close, the question that is far from settled is what will happen to the contests for the Congress. Conventional wisdom has been that the Democrats are going to make major gains in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Projections range from a gain of four Senate seats all the way to nine seats. Democratic projections for the House have suggested a gain of 12 to 30 seats.
If Senator Barack Obama wins the Presidency and the Democrats make major gains in the Congress it would mean that two-thirds of the Federal Government would be in the hands of Democrats, with the future of the Supreme Court uncertain. Most likely a new President will have an opportunity to appoint one or more Justices.
Since the end of New Deal and post-New Deal dominance in 1952 the public has tended to prefer a split between the Congress and the Presidency. The President and Congress were of the same party for only 16 years. Thus, should voters give Obama both Houses of Congress they would be running counter to the trend. Obama has advocated many new programs. An all-Democratic Congress and Presidency would make it likely that most of those programs would be enacted.
If McCain were to win how he would fare with Congress is problematic. If Democrats should win as many as seven Senate seats they could override most McCain vetoes. Should Democrats win as few as four seats, the lowest number anyone is projecting, it is possible that measures McCain didn't like could be filibustered. And certainly McCain vetoes could be upheld. The problem for McCain would be that the Democrats still would control the Congress, so he most likely would be unable to enact any of his proposals.
How the voters will behave as they are electing a new President is not at all clear. For example, most analyses of the 1980 elections have contended that Ronald Reagan swept in the Republican-controlled Senate. But a hard look at the data suggests otherwise. Nearly all of the first-time Senatorial candidates ran ahead of Reagan. That was true in Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Wisconsin and a host of other States. Only in North Carolina, with the election of John East, could the case be made that Reagan was responsible for the victory.
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