The impeachment carnival and Democratic presidential nomination
contest have seemed to crowd out news of the critical election cycle
this year for control of the U.S. house and senate.
As the immediate past sessions of these two legislative bodies have
so dramatically demonstrated, with each party controlling one of
them, significant actions other than legislation, can and do take place.
In he Democratic-controlled U.S. house, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, after
first hesitating to do so, has led a partisan effort to pass two articles
of impeachment of Republican President Donald Trump.
In the Republican-controlled U.S. senate. Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell has led a partisan effort to confirm a record number of
conservative federal judges, most of whom with lifetime
With the two major parties so politically divided at this time, very
little bipartisan compromise and legislation is taking place, but the
politicalization of the impeachment process and the stacking of
the courts have important political consequences,
No matter who is elected president, the two bodies of the Congress
can continue their extra-legislative functions, especially if control
remains in the same hands. Although impeachment will almost
certainly fail in a U.S. senate trial this year, theoretically a new
Democratic-controlled U.S. house could impeach the president
again next year following his re-election, If he loses, however, and
Republicans win the house, they might decide to impeach the new
Likewise, if he GOP wins senate control again, and Mr.. Trump is
re-elected, conservatives would likely fill more than half the federal
judiciary for decades. Even if a Democrat is elected president, a
GOP senate could block many of his judicial nominees, particularly
to the U.S. supreme court.
There are other permutations of these scenarios, including a
Democratic takeover of the senate, but the vital point is that the
outcome of these elections is VERY important.
So what are their prospects with under ten months until election
In the U.S. house, the Democrats were heavily favored to keep
control even if President Trump were re-elected, but the
impeachment activity seems to be changing that. Although the
media is making the large number of GOP incumbents retiring a
big story, most of those are in safe Republican districts, Perhaps
the bigger story is the one being told by former Speaker Newt
Gingrich who, in a recent column, cited the record number of
GOP congressional candidates, including women and minorities,
already running in 2020. With more than 30 seats won in 2018 by
Democrats in districts carried by Mr. Trump in 2016, the current
backlash to the impeachment, and the strong recruitment of
GOP challengers, the early odds favoring the Democrats, Mr.
Gingrich contends, are diminishing.,
In the U.S. senate, Democratic hopes were buoyed by the fact that
twice as many GOP incumbent seats than Democratic seats were
up for re-election this cycle. But this was illusory since so many
Republican seats were in conservative states. Nevertheless, a
number of GOP senators are potentially vulnerable, particularly
in Arizona, Colorado, Maine and North Carolina, and a path to
Democratic senate control exists. On the other hand, the
Democratic incumbent in Alabama is very vulnerable, as are, to
a lesser degree, Democratic incumbents in Michigan, New
Hampshire and Minnesota.
The presidential election seems more likely to affect the
congressional elections outcomes than usual in 2020. Both party
bases seem to be aroused this cycle, but Democratic turnout
could critically depend on their nominee ---and when that
nominee is chosen. Donald Trump remains so far the central
figure of 2020, both positively and negatively. And, as always.
election-year economics and international events will be key
Most party nominees in competitive races are now known,
although a few key races, including the Kansas and Alabama
senate races, and two Minnesota potential GOP U.S. house
pick-ups in Minnesota, have yet to be determined.
These and other close races, plus the uncertainty of the
Democratic presidential nomination, will require resolution
before any credible assessment of the 2020 national elections
can take place.
Copyright (c) 2020 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.