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The Battle for Congress

As the majority of our attention is taken up with the daily news on Secretary Hillary Clinton, Mr.Donald Trump and their quest for the White House, we often miss out on the races that are happening for the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Running for the House is a gruelling task; from the moment you are elected you only have two years until you are up for election again. It’s a tough job, and its election cycle is why we see changes to who is in control during a President’s term in office. This year the Republicans are defending a 61 seat majority in the 435-seat House: they hold 247 seats, while the Democrats hold 186. The Democrats are expecting to pick up a few seats by tying House Members to the unpopular Mr Trump, and increasing the turnout of their voters on the 2014 midterms, but the Speaker’s Gavel looks out of reach for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-California). While a slim majority for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) will not be easy sailing for him as he faces backlash from withdrawing his support for Trump from more conservative elements of the House Republicans.

It will be a near impossibility for the Democrats to flip control of the House, but should Clinton win big on November 8th the Republicans may have a much slimmer majority than they do. This will give Democrats something to work towards for the next Mid-Term Elections in 2018.

In the Senate, 34 of the 100 seats are up for election. A number of big names for the Democrats are stepping down: House Minority leader Harry Reid in Nevada, Barbara Boxer in California and Barbara Mikulski in Maryland, who was the first woman who did not have ‘a husband or father who had served in high political office elected to the Senate’ back in 1987.

The election map for this year’s election is a lot tougher for the Republicans, who are defending 24 seats to the Democrats’ 10. This gives the Democrats the opportunity to flip the control of the Senate; if the Democrats win four seats, they will tie control of the Senate. This would mean that in the event of the Clinton Presidency, Vice President Tim Kaine would have the casting vote in any tied vote. Any more than four and they will have outright control of the Senate.

Most seats don’t look like they will change hands this cycle, so where will Democrats pick up enough seats to take control? And are there any trouble spots?

Certain Democrat Pick-ups

Two states look like they’re in the bag at the time of writing: in Wisconsin, former Democratic Party Senator Russ Feingold looks set to win back the seat he lost to Republican Ron Johnson back in 2010, and in Illinois Tammy Duckworth looks to be heading for victory over Republican Senator Mark Kirk.

Leaning Democrat Pick-up

Two states are leaning towards Democrat victories. In Indiana former Democrat Senator Evan Byah is in a tough fight with Republican Todd Young for the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Daniel Coats. Byah is being hammered by Young on a number fronts, including his lobbying in his time out-of-office, and his out-of-state residency. This will be a close fought election right up until ballots open.

In New Hampshire, popular Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan is taking on Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte for the Senate Seat. Hassan has successfully tied Ayotte to Donald Trump in many adverts airing throughout the campaign. One hope for Ayotte is the renowned independent streak that New Hampshire has.

Toss-Up

Four States are toss-ups, and could see victory for either party, but the Republicans will be hoping to win all four to prevent complete Democratic control of the Senate. In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is in for a rough race against Republican Joe Heck for the seat being vacated by Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid. This is a must-hold for the Democrats if they hope to gain control of the Senate.

In Missouri, Democrat Jason Kander has become a surprise challenger to Republican Senator Roy Blunt. Kander has been relentless in his campaign to unseat Blunt, and has the support of many stalwarts, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who have helped him to gain ground in a state that has voted Republican since 1996.

Pennsylvania sees another Democratic challenger to a sitting Republican Senator in Kate McGinty, who is taking on Senator Pat Toomey in what will be a close fight. Toomey has refused to state whether or not he supports Trump, and McGinty is using this to attack Toomey is this battleground state.

North Carolina is the final close race, and could be one of the deciding races for the Senate. Democratic Challenger Deborah Ross is taking on Senator Richard Burr for the seat, with a divided state as a background: from House 2 on Access to Bathrooms for Transgender People, to the elections for president and governor, both of which are closely fought.

Lean Republican Hold

A seat which, earlier in the election, seemed in play was that of Senator Marco Rubio in Florida. Democrat Patrick Murphy was seen as the early favourite, but has slipped in recent weeks; we have also seen the Democratic Party Senatorial Campaign Committee bring a halt to their spending in the state, leaving Murphy to fund his own campaign. It will take a big swing to the Democrats on Election Day for them to deprive Rubio of his seat.

With all the other seats unlikely to change hands, especially in California where two Democrats are facing off for the open seat there, all attention will be on these seven seats to see who will control the Senate under the first two years of either a Trump or Clinton Presidency.

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Stephen Spillane

30 year old Cork feen who should have left UCC years ago, but still writing for the Express. Has written for a number of websites including Spirituality Ireland and ESC Ireland. Interests include Politics, Religion and other things that shouldn't be spoken about in polite company.