By Nick Winnie
As the Nov. 7 midterm elections approach, both the Republicans and Democrats are entering what is considered one of the most intense congressional election seasons in recent memory.
In the Senate, the Democrats hope to take at least six seats from the Republicans in order to achieve the majority. They are attempting to capitalize on a combination of recent events, including low presidential approval ratings, scandals, and foreign policy criticism.
When City On a Hill Press asked California State Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-CA 42nd) whether he thought this goal was within reach for his party, he simply said, "Yes. Absolutely."
Although recent developments in Washington appear to favor the Democrats, their stated goal of recapturing the Senate remains ambitious.
Politics Department Chair Dan Wirls is skeptical of this goal.
"If you look at the history of Senate races, that is a lot of seats to swing," Wirls said.
Wirls did cite historical precedent for such a victory, referring to the ’94 midterm elections, when the Republicans took control of both the House and Senate. Most analysts, including UCSC Professor of Politics Ronnie Lipschutz, agree that for the Democrats to regain control of the Senate, they will have to win every close race come November.
"The real question is, are voters going to connect Bush with those running locally?" Lipschutz said. "Recent presidential approval ratings are hovering between 36 and 38 percent nationally and discontent over the administration’s handling of the war in Iraq is growing in national polls."
Wirls agrees that voters might make a connection between the presidency and the party as a whole.
"In this election, [Democrats] have no vehicle to express their discontent with national interests other than in these congressional races," Lipschutz said.
The recently declassified National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) has also contributed to the Democrats’ optimism. The NIE, written by top analysts in the U.S. intelligence community, criticizes the Bush administration’s war on terror and makes unsettling conclusions about the impact of the war in Iraq on national security. According to Lipschutz, "The NIE claims, in many ways, that the Bush administration is spinning Iraq in a specific way."
Along with these issues, the Mark Foley scandal has come to occupy a great deal of attention in national media of late.
According to Assemblyman Feur, this scandal may be crucial for Democrats. "Every poll I’ve seen since the Foley revelation shows that it may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back," Feur said.
Some analysts argue that the Democrats do not need to regain the majority of the Senate in order to consider this November’s race a success.
"The Democrats wouldn’t necessarily need the majority," Wirls said. "Two or three seats could change the dynamic of important policies."