PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA faces the biggest test of his presidency to date today, as voters from across the United States go to the polls in the mid-term elections that will likely see his Democratic Party lose control of the House of Representatives.
All 435 voting seats in the House are up for renewal today, with a broad consensus of national opinion polls indicating that the Republican party will come out best, all but assured of taking majority control and usurping Democrat speaker Nanci Pelosi who currently leads a safe majority of 255.
In the Senate, where only a third of the seats are up for renewal meaning that public opinion has a smaller immediate impact, the Democrats (currently holding 58 of the 100 seats and commanding the support of another independent) are likely to regain control, though the majority could well be whittled down to 1 – with a reasonable chance that the chamber would well be deadlocked.
The Democrats’ relative success of holding the Senate will be tempered, however, by the likely defeat of Senate leader Harry Reid to Sharron Angle.
37 of the 50 states are also set to elect new governors, with Republicans – set to gain control of six mansions – currently holding 23 such positions (plus the support of former Republican Charlie Crist in Florida) compared to the Democrats’ 29.
It is the right-wing Tea Party movement that has gathered much of the headlines in the run-up to the elections, arguing for smaller government and lower taxes, leaving the public with more direct control over their lives and pockets.
High-profile candidates like Christine O’Donnell, running for the seat formerly held by vice-president Joe Biden, has become a figurehead for the movement led by Biden’s former opponent Sarah Palin.
Though O’Donnell is set to lose the seat to Democrat Chris Coons – and therefore likely bear much of the public responsibility for the Republicans’ failure to secure control of both houses of Congress – the impact of her candidacy and the broader Tea Party movement will be one of the larger lingering memories of the ‘mid-terms’.
Though Obama will by no means be the first President to be faced with the stumbling block of an opposition Congress, the loss of the massive majority in both houses will be a major blow to the under-fire President who has seen the overwhelming support that put him in the White House ebb away as voters become slowly more disenfranchised with his perceived inactivity in office.