While the race for the White House is dominating the news and voters’ interest, on November 6 all members of the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate face re-election. Most pollsters are calling the Presidential election a toss-up, providing elaborate explanations on how either candidate could win without taking Ohio. (I find this particularly amusing as a born and raised Buckeye and as we all know, “As Ohio goes, so goes the nation!”) But, what this does say is that the Presidential election may or may not have as great an impact on local and state races. Today’s blog looks at where we think the House and Senate elections may be headed.
The Republicans are heavily favored to maintain control of the House. The current party split is 241 Republicans and 197 Democrats with 1 Independent. The Democratic Party would need to pick up a net of 25 seats to gain control in the House – not impossible, but most experts think highly unlikely. While the heavy anti-incumbent sentiment among voters works in their favor the redistricting that has occurred in many states is to the Republicans’ advantage. The last election provided significant gains for the Republicans on the state level and the new districts reflect this. In viewing several of the major election watchers’ sites all think that the Republicans will continue to hold the majority in the House, but the Democrats are likely to pick up a handful of seats.
The Senate, while harder to call, experts think will remain in Democratic hands. Currently the Senate is made up of 51 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 2 Independents that caucus with the Democrats. Thirty-three seats are up in 2012, including 11 retirements (really 10, plus one Senator who lost his primary). There looks to be about 6 – 7 toss-up races – 3 seats currently held by Democrats in WI, CT, and ND and 4 seats held by Republicans in AZ, MA, NV, IN. For the Republicans to gain control of the Senate they would need to pick up all of the toss-up races and not have any surprise losses. Most of those “election watchers” think this highly unlikely, but many think the Republicans will pick up seats resulting in an even tighter margin and an even more gridlocked Senate.
The major changes in the Senate and the operation of the key health committees are due to retirements. The Finance Committee dynamic will change significantly with the retirement of Senators Conrad (D), Bingaman (D), Snowe (R), and Kyl (R). Conrad and Snowe are well-known for working on a bi-partisan basis on a myriad of health issues. Senator Kyl was the voice of the Senate Republican leadership on the Finance Committee and was critical in determining whether legislation could pass the full Senate. Senator Bingaman was a leader on many Medicaid and children’s issues. The other Committees are not facing as many retirements, but the departure of several Senators in leadership positions will result in changes. Retiring Senator Kohl (D-WI) has been an active member of the Appropriations Committee for many years, most recently chairing the Agriculture Subcommittee (with jurisdiction over FDA) as well as sitting on the Labor, HHS and Education Subcommittee, and has been the long-time chair of the Aging Committee. He has been an active voice in health policy. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison will also step down this year and leave behind a legacy in cancer and women’s issues.
So that’s how it looks on paper. But as they say in sports, That’s why they play the game!