Wichita State News
Photo: Joe Kleinsasser
Mel Kahn says the party in power typically has a difficult time defending whatever is going wrong in the economy, whether or not it’s of their doing.

PODCAST: Political winds favor GOP in midterm elections

Monday, October 18, 2010

This WSU Newsline Podcast is available at http://www.wichita.edu/newslinepodcast. See the transcript below:

You’re listening to the podcast edition of the Wichita State University audio newsline. Learn more about WSU — the home of Thinkers, Doers, Movers and Shockers — on the Web at wichita.edu.

The Nov. 2 midterm elections will likely bring change and, if political prognosticators are right, that means good news for the Republican Party. Wichita State University political scientist Mel Kahn says the struggling economy makes it difficult for the party in power.

Kahn: "The difficult challenge is you have to defend whatever is going wrong in the economy, whether it’s of your doing or not, and that’s the dilemma that the Democrats have.”

A lot has happened in the two years since the hope and optimism fueled by President Obama’s run to the presidency and Democratic control in Washington. Now, voters are anxious about the economy, worried about jobs and paychecks. And many complain about soaring federal debt. Political pundits expect voters to punish the Democrats on Election Day, and Kahn agrees that the Democrats’ control is on the brink.

Kahn: "Actually, it’s highly unlikely that the Republicans can fail to win the House. The only real question is, will the margin be sufficient enough to get a majority and take control? And I believe the indicators are that they will receive a sufficient majority.”

The Senate may remain in control of the Democrats, but it’s not a sure thing, as Kahn explains.

Kahn: "Well, for the Democratic Legislature, the best bet is to be able to retain the Senate and stop a lot of legislation from being passed by a Republican majority in both chambers. And I would say right now, I would estimate that the Republicans have about a 40 percent chance of capturing the Senate, depending on how certain key races turn out.”

One of the key races to watch in November is the Senate race in Nevada.

Kahn: “A big problem for the Democrats is holding on to the (Senate) seat in Nevada. And both candidates are very flawed. And I would say that in the case of (Harry) Reid, his main hope is that enough of the anti-Reid people will vote for the none-of-the-above alternative on the ballot, and thus take votes away from his opponent, (Sharron) Angle.

As strange as it sounds, Kahn says President Obama probably wouldn’t object to an election outcome that moves control of the House and Senate from the Democrats to the Republicans.

Kahn: "I think Obama, like Clinton before him, will not say it publicly, but would probably relish the idea of having both the House and the Senate go Republican, so that in 2012 he could be running against the Republicans rather than against his own record.”

As far as Kansas goes, most of the major races appear to favor the Republicans, although Kahn says there’s good competition in at least a couple of cases.

Kahn: “The most competitive races I think are the congressional ones in the Third District and the Fourth. In both cases the Republicans are favored to win, but they’re still quite competitive.”

And Kahn is impressed with both of the major candidates in the Fourth District race.

Kahn: “From the point of an interested citizen, it’s a real treat to see two candidates of the caliber of Goyle and Pompeo in the Fourth District. Both of them are highly intelligent, articulate campaigners, both graduates of Harvard Law School, and you can see the difference between them, and the voters have a real choice.”

Voter turnout will have a lot to say about the outcome in Kansas and nationwide, and Kahn says all signs point toward gains by the Republicans.

Kahn: “The independents who went very heavily for the Democrats in the last election give every indication of going for the Republicans. In addition to that, the Republican Party, largely energized by the Tea Party people, look like they’re going to do a better job of turning out their base than the Democrats will in turning out theirs. And so, for that reason, I think they have a decisive advantage.”

History shows it’s common for a new president’s party to lose seats in Congress in his first midterm election. In the past century, only Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934 and George W. Bush in 2002 saw their parties’ ranks in Congress expand in their first midterm elections. Of course, no one knows for sure how this year’s elections will turn out, but Democrats are bracing for bad news.

Thanks for listening. Until next time, this is Joe Kleinsasser for Wichita State University.

This story has been tagged Faculty/Staff, Political Science. See all RSS feeds here