The upcoming elections are
called "midterm" elections because they come midway through the president's four-year
term and often reflect voters' satisfaction or frustration with the administration
in the White House.
435 House seats, 36 Senate seats
In 2006, Democrats won majorities in both the 435-member House of Representatives
and the 100-member Senate.
All 435 House seats will be decided
in the 2010 election, as well as 36 of 100 Senate seats (representatives serve
two-year terms while senators serve six-year terms). Thirty-seven of the nation's
50 governors are also up for re-election.
Incumbent politicians-- those
who are defending their seats -- are expected to have an especially hard time
since many voters are angry about the bad economy. And since Democrats hold
more of those seats, they stand to lose the most.
incumbents has also spurred the popularity of political movements such as the
In fact, recent Tea Party victories in Republican primaries
in Kentucky, Delaware and New York may have actually hurt Republican chances of
taking over the Senate. The winning Tea Party candidates were political outsiders
who take more conservative and radical stands than the candidates backed by the
established Republican Party, possibly alienating independents and frustrated
Democrats in the November election.
Voters are concerned about
Although President Obama's administration
used his party's majority in Congress to pass several historic laws such as health
care legislation and the financial
reform overhaul, the near-10 percent unemployment rate has left voters more
interested in finding a fix for the U.S. economy.
The status of the economy weighs heavily on the minds of voters when making decisions
on election day.
In an effort to gain
votes for Democrats and re-energize his party's base, President Obama has been
traveling around the country giving a series of campaign-style speeches and rallies.
"The problems facing working families, they're nothing new,"
President Obama told a crowd at a Labor Day rally in Milwaukee, Wisc. "But
they are more serious than ever. And that makes our cause more urgent than ever."
While recent polls show that Americans are equally frustrated by the Republicans
and the Democrats, more registered voters--people most likely to cast votes on
Nov. 2--favor Republicans.
Midterm elections are a test for presidents
Parties in power often lose seats
during midterm elections because of voter discontent with one or more laws they
Some Democrats criticized the president for not speaking out passionately about
the poor economy.
President Bill Clinton's Democrats lost big during his
first mid-term elections in 1994, handing over the House to Republicans for the
first time in 40 years.
During President George Bush's first mid-term
election his party won eight new seats--it was one of the few mid-term elections
that the party in the White House gained seats (the other such mid-term elections
were in 1902, 1934 and 1998).
What's at stake?
If Republicans take control of Congress it would increase the tension between
the legislative and executive branches.
The upcoming midterm elections are important to President Obama and
the Democrats because a majority in both houses of Congress gives them a better
chance of working together to write and pass legislation.
When a party
has a majority, it controls which bills come to the floor for a vote and which
Having Republicans in charge would set up a divided government
in which the president could veto legislation but would have much less control
over what kind of bills Congress passes.
It would be especially difficult
for President Obama to enact his legislative agenda because Republicans' and Democrats'
approaches to fixing the economy are so different.
believe that spending money on national improvement projects and social welfare
programs will help Americans get back on their feet, while most Republicans believe
new spending adds to the national debt and could negatively affect the economy
in the long run.