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Midterms 101 Nov 07

Voters in the United States are heading to the polls today to elect a new Congress. Here’s a quick roundup of who’s up for election.

The whole US House of Representatives is elected every two years, so all 435 seats are up today. In addition, a third of the 100 seats in the US Senate are in play (for six-year terms), as are over two-thirds of state governorships across the country and various seats in state legislatures.

Currently, the Senate is made up of 45 Democrats (including retiring former Republican Senator Jim Jeffords, an Independent who now caucases with the Democrats, and Democrat-running-as-Independent Senator Joe Lieberman) and 55 Republicans. The House of Representatives has 201 Democratic Congressmen and 229 Republicans, plus 1 Independent (Bernie Sanders, representing Vermont’s at-large district, who caucuses with the Dems and is standing down to run for the Seante) and 4 vacant seats (the New Jersey 13th, a Democratic seat vacated by the new senator; the Florida 16th, which belonged to Republican Mark Foley; and the Texas 22nd and the Ohio 18th, both vacated b Republicans in relation to the Jack Abramoff scandal). The states have 22 Democratic governors and 28 Republicans.

The race for the Senate is currently too close to call. Of the 33 seats up for grabs, only 13 are currently Republican, making a Democratic advance harder. Lieberman has said he will caucus with the Democrats if he beats Ned Lamont, and Bernie Sanders, though running as an Independent to succeed Jeffords in Vermont, is backed by the Democrats. There are a number of pickup opportunities for the Dems, but many of them are all close races: in Rhode Island, Missouri, Montana and Virginia, with an outside chance in Arizona and Tennessee. In addition, the Democrats are on the defensive in Maryland and New Jersey. They can at least be pretty sure of taking Pennsylvania from Senator Rick Santorum, the sort of legislator who would be a funny joke if we wasn’t, well, a legislator.

With the whole House in play, it is likely the Democrats will take a majority of seats, although so many races are too close to call that the Republicans have a tiny chance of holding on if every one of those and one or two more go their way.

Of the 36 governorships being contested today, 22 are currently Republican. Democrats need to make a net gain of four governors to have a psychologically significant majority, and current polls suggest they will surpass that, helped by a number of states where the Republican incumbent is standing down. The most likely Democratic gains are the open seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Ohio. No Democratic seats are showing Republican poll leads, but in the unlikely event there is a loss it’s most likely to be in Iowa (where Tom Vilsack is retiring), Oregon or Wisconsin.

7 Responses

  1. 1
    James Blanchard 

    Ooh, educational and informative- the Will Blog at its best, but what’s an ‘at-large’ district?

  2. 2

    It’s where the state’s population is sufficiently small (in this case, around 600,000) that they only get one member in the House of Representatives. Rather than this being the Vermont 1st, say, it’s the Vermont at-large district. This is the case for Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.

  3. Ooh, that’s excellent, well done. I’ve been going through it in my head ever since a local radio host this morning said “Well, I know there are elections in America, but somehow they don’t include George Bush. How does that work then? Craaazy!”

    I’d forgotten Congress was all-up every two years though.

  4. 4

    It seems odd, doesn’t it – we have district councillors serving four-year terms while the lower house of the world’s only superpower get just two years at a time.

  5. I had great fun explaining this to my (one and only) friend last night – the great thing was he was actually interested!
    You have done it far better than I, however.

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