In 100 days, voters across the United States will go to the polls for the first time since Barack Obama was elected President nearly two years ago.  It’s known as the Midterm Election, the vote that takes place in the middle of a Presidential term.  On November 2nd, Americans will cast their ballots for seats in Congress and local offices.  At stake for President Obama is whether or not he’ll retain enough support in Congress to further his legislative agenda in the last two years of his term.  For Republicans, the Midterms are a chance to halt what they consider to be the progressive direction of government and regain momentum heading into the 2012 Presidential election.
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for election and 37 Senate seats are being contested.  Currently the Democrats have majorities in both the House and Senate.  Historically, the party in power loses seats in the Midterms.  In 1994, the Democrats lost their majorities in both the House and Senate in the so-called “Republican Revolution,” an embarrassment to then-President Bill Clinton.  Republicans are hoping to repeat that victory this year.
It’s possible if not probable that Republicans could pick up enough seats to substantially affect policymaking, even if they don’t become the majority party.  That’s because voters are angry that about job loss, home foreclosures and retirement savings vanishing and don’t see substantial progress on their priorities.
Jobs, jobs, jobs.  No incumbent will be able to avoid the political black hole of high unemployment.  Nearly 15 million Americans are unemployed, and if they don’t have a job to go to on November 2, they might be the first ones in line on Election Day.
And there are other national and local issues voters will consider:  the growing deficit, illegal immigration, and widespread public anger with Washington could translate into a drubbing for the Democratic Party.  The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the increasing number of US casualties in Afghanistan are added headaches for the party in power.
Republicans, as the minority party, will remind voters of unpopular laws passed by the Democrats – healthcare reform, financial services reform, and a stimulus, which they don’t see as helping the weak economy.  However, so far, they haven’t come out with a substantive platform of ideas they want to implement if elected and are counting on a backlash against the Democrats to propel them into office.
If the Republicans do well, the Midterms could solidify the next generation Republican Party.  Many of the candidates are young, diverse and rich.  The Tea Party movement, which looked like it could take over the Republican brand left battered after eight years of the George Bush presidency, has faltered because of inexperienced candidates and a number of gaffes.  Republicans have a chance to define their future rather than falling to an insurrection.
Democrats, on the other hand, will try to convince voters that the specter of George Bush remains and obstructionist Republicans are responsible for the country’s problems.   Obama and the Democrats have fulfilled a number of campaign promises, but have consistently failed to convince the public that these achievements are good for the country. And the President has angered independents and liberals in nearly equal measure.  Independents say he went too far Left with his economic policies while liberals decry his escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
Nowhere does the election matter more than in the US Senate.  If the Democrats retain their majority, albeit smaller, the legislative body will move to the ideological centre, leaving many of Obama’s campaign promises in peril.  Currently the Democrats have to get at least one Republican to join them when trying to pass major legislation opposed by conservatives.  After this election, they may have to appeal to several more Republicans.
Polls show more Americans disapprove of Obama’s job performance than approve.  But he fares much better than Congress.  A new Gallup poll shows out of 16 institutions, Americans have the least confidence in Congress.  Only 11% of those polled had a great deal of confidence in Congress, that’s the lowest level since Gallup began asking the question in 1973.
While the frantic campaigning won’t kick off until September, candidates around the country are busy raising money and massing support for the autumn. Between the money and the malaise, the anger and the audacity of hope, 2010 Midterms will help define Obama’s presidency. Voters will go to the polls thinking about their lives and will say what they think about the policies of this administration and whether or not they want something, anything different.