“Build that wall”, “Drain the swamp”, “Lock her up”. The slogans that Donald Trump launched in his election campaign in 2016 are back. For weeks the American president has been holding crowded meetings in the run-up to the next Tuesday’s interim elections.
This time, Trump is not promoting himself, but his Republican party members. Although no one will deny that these two go hand in hand. Trump made the election to a referendum on his presidency. As he himself said at a meeting in Missouri: “Go vote in 2018, because you vote for me.”
At the midterms, the four-yearly interim elections, the Americans choose new members for Congress. This consists of the House of Representatives, similar to our House of Representatives, and the Senate. Whoever gains control over Congress decides on the fate of the president. Can he implement his agenda almost unhindered in the next two years, or will he become flabby?
At this moment, Trump’s Republican party has a majority in both the House and the Senate. The president can therefore guide many of his plans through parliament, for example the reform of the American tax system and the appointment of two very conservative judges to the US Supreme Court. But after the midterms, the tide could turn.
Starting with the House of Representatives. At the moment there are 240 Republicans, compared to 195 Democrats. After the elections, all those 435 seats will be redistributed. To obtain a majority, the Democrats must have 23 seats.
According to the latest polls that is feasible, especially since more than 30 Republican members of the House have decided not to take part in the elections anymore. That’s why inexperienced people come in, instead of whom the Democratic candidates are more likely. Moreover, the history here plays in favor of the Democrats: on average the party of the incumbent president at the midterms loses 32 seats in the House, and 2 in the Senate.
Two is also exactly the number of seats that the Democrats need to obtain a majority in the Senate. At the moment, the Republicans have a wafer-thin majority of 51 out of 100 seats there.
Yet it is less likely that the Democrats will also win a victory in the Senate. A major disadvantage for the Democrats is that in the Senate only 35 seats are being redistributed, of which they already have 24 in their hands. For a majority, they must retain those seats and win two seats in conservative states such as Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi.
What’s at stake for Trump?
A victory in the House of Representatives alone is sufficient for the Democrats to make President Trump’s life rather bad. With a majority of votes, they can significantly slow down or even block Trump’s plans. Many of the points on the presidential to-do list, such as the border wall between the United States and Mexico and the abolition of the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), require the approval of both Chambers of Congress.
And, perhaps even more important for Trump: with a majority in the House, the Democrats can also increase their so-called oversight activities. They can then start more investigations to the president, for example to tax returns or to the ties his campaign team had in the run-up to the presidential elections with the Russians.
The fact that the Democrats are also starting a deposition procedure, the so-called ‘impeachment’ procedure, seems less likely at the moment. This requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, which the Democrats will not have after the elections.
The battle for Congress is the most discussed, it is not the only election that will be held on 6 November. In addition to congressmen, the Americans also elect local officials, such as mayors and sheriffs, and 36 states get a new governor.
President Trump will also closely monitor these final elections. Governors play an important role in fundraising and campaigning in the presidential elections.
Republican governors in states such as Ohio, Michigan and Florida, who were decisive in the presidential elections in 2016, can benefit from Trump’s re-election campaign. Because it will start again next year, if Trump itself is on the ballot again in November 2020.