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Political Notebook

GOP may wrest control of Senate

September 11, 2011

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As the parties prepare for the 2012 congressional elections, Republicans have an advantage in the fight for control of the Senate.

Fewer than a dozen Senate seats appear to be in play, and almost all of them are held by Democrats, said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Two Senate Republicans face competitive challenges, Nevada freshman Dean Heller and Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who in 2010 broke Democrats’ 60-vote majority bloc after winning a special election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a Democrat.

“Right now, they’re favored to take control of the Senate, but it’s not a done deal yet,’’ said Duffy, referring to Republicans.

Both parties are saddled with high disapproval ratings. According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted Aug. 27-31, 82 percent of respondents disapprove of the job Congress is doing, compared with 13 percent who approve.

Forty-six percent of respondents disapprove of the Republicans’ job performance, while 32 percent approve. Congressional Democrats’ disapproval rating stood at 44 percent in the poll, compared with 33 percent who approved of their job performance. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

In addition, Republicans haven’t yet recruited candidates in several states, including West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Bob Casey, respectively, appear to be vulnerable. Crowded Republican primary fields may create expensive intraparty fights that lift reelection prospects for some targeted Democratic incumbents, such as Claire McCaskill in Missouri and Ben Nelson in Nebraska.

If Republicans hold their House majority, a Senate takeover would give them control of the legislative agenda and blunt Obama’s second term initiatives if he’s reelected, or buoy the prospects for a new Republican president.

— Bloomberg News

Democrats worry about Obama’s reelection odds Democrats are expressing growing alarm about President Obama’s reelection prospects and, in interviews, are openly acknowledging anxiety about the White House’s ability to strengthen the president’s standing over the next 14 months.

Elected officials and party leaders at all levels said their worries have intensified as the economy has displayed new signs of weakness. They said the likelihood of a highly competitive 2012 race is increasing as the Republican field, once dismissed by many Democrats as too inexperienced and conservative to pose a serious threat, has started narrowing to two leading candidates, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, who have executive experience and messages built around job creation.

And in a campaign cycle in which Democrats had entertained hopes of reversing losses from last year’s midterm elections, some in the party fear that Obama’s troubles could reverberate down the ballot into congressional, state, and local races.

The president’s economic address last week offered a measure of solace to discouraged Democrats by employing an assertive and scrappy style that many supporters complain has been absent for the last year as he has struggled to rise above Washington gridlock.

There is little cause for immediate optimism, with polls showing Obama at one of the lowest points of his presidency.

His own economic advisers concede that the unemployment rate, currently 9.1 percent, is unlikely to drop substantially over the next year, creating a daunting obstacle to reelection.

Liberals have grown frustrated by some of his actions, such as the decision this month to drop tougher air-quality standards.

And polling suggests that the president’s yearlong effort to reclaim the political center has so far yielded little in the way of additional support from the moderates and independents who tend to decide presidential elections.

— New York Times

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