Welcome to the first edition of our new POLITICAL INSIDER – a special edition newsletter we will publish in the lead up to the election! Washington is buzzing and things are moving so fast that we thought you might like a little background, a little perspective and a little behind the scenes info. We will do our best to keep you up to date on what is happening so you can make some sense of this crazy election season.
State of the Race
Why does the Senate matter?
Control of the Senate is up for grabs this Election Day, and many of the most important Senate races are sharply divided on issues important to the Iranian-American community. The Republican Party currently holds the majority in both the House and Senate, which means they control what comes up for a vote and what issues get prioritized. In the Senate, Republicans hold 54 Senate seats while the Democrats have 46 seats (Two of those seats are held by independents who caucus with the Democrats). A shift of five seats would hand Democrats control of the chamber. Some of the most endangered incumbents are Senators who led the opposition to the Iran deal, have authored sanctions aimed at unraveling the deal, or who have stood in the way of efforts to repeal H.R.158 visa discrimination. Many of their challengers, meanwhile, have backed the accord and are being attacked for their pro-diplomacy positions.
The recent turmoil in the Presidential race has only contributed to the general assumption among political insiders (both Democrat and Republican) that Clinton will win in November. Because many large Republican donors have given up on Trump, attention and money are being focused on the Senate and House races to prevent Democratic gains. Before the conventions, polls had tightened in Senate races in battleground states, but the convention bump and the chaos of the last several weeks are beginning to have an impact. Recent polls indicate that the needle is moving in some important Senate races, including New Hampshire–where Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan could be up to 10 points ahead of incumbent Senator Kelly Ayotte, a 7 point jump in a month. Most Republican candidates in tight Senate races are trying desperately to shake off Trump’s shadow and are hoping to carve out separate identities in order to win.
Since only five seats need to change hands, many feel that the Senate could go to the Democrats while Republicans will keep the House. Of course, if there is a margin of ten or more points in the Presidential election, there is a good chance that the Democrats could take both chambers of Congress.
The most important Senate races involve incumbents who strongly opposed the Iran deal, including those in Illinois (Kirk), New Hampshire (Ayotte), Wisconsin (Johnson), Arizona (McCain), North Carolina (Burr) Pennsylvania (Toomey), and Ohio (Portman).
The Real Presidential Election
Most people forget that the race for the White House is not one election; it is actually 50 elections. The winner of each state chooses a specific number of “Electors” who travel to Washington in December and it is they who legally elect the new President. The winner needs 270 of the 538 Electoral votes available.
Based on past performance, voter registration and polling, political professionals offer predictions of how states will vote. These predictions are based on two candidates, and exclude Libertarian and Green Party candidates. According to Dr. Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, the current status is dramatic:
States that are safe, likely or leaning Republican total 191
States that are safe, likely or leaning Democratic total 347
The Supreme Court
The Court is considered the most important invisible issue in the election. Sometimes a candidate will say a few words here and there about the Court, but this election is especially important since the winner will determine the future of the Court for the next generation. The unexpected death of Justice Scalia left the eight remaining justices fairly evenly split between conservative and progressive ideologies. The remaining eight include 83 yr. old Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 80 yr. old Anthony Kennedy, and 78 yr. old Stephen Breyer. In addition, Justice Clarence Thomas has expressed in an interest in retirement. The next President will send his/her nominees to the Senate for approval, proving the vital importance of the down ballot races.
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