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Red vs Blue: Here's what you need to know ahead of the US midterms

The elections come at a polarised time for US politics.

UPI 20181022 Trump has been attending numerous rallies trying to get the Republican vote out. Source: PA Images

NEXT WEEK IT will be two years since Donald Trump was elected US President.

It means Trump is halfway through his first term of office and also means it’s time for the US midterm elections.

The midterms are a huge part of US politics but, as is the case with anything connected with Trump, interest and engagement has skyrocketed this year.

The elections are being held next Tuesday, 6 November, and you’ll be hearing a lot about them over the next week. So here’s a guide to what you should know and what you should be looking out for.

First off, what are the midterms?

The midterms are elections held every four years across all levels of US government.

It includes both houses of the US Congress, state governorships and other local legislatures.

The US Congress is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. In this year’s midterms, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for grabs as are 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate.

It can get confusing because the US Congress is made up of two houses but those elected to the Senate are referred to as senators, while those elected to the House are called congressmen or congresswomen.

Both houses work together, and with the President, to pass federal laws and are therefore the most closely watched when it comes to midterms.

Currently, Republicans have a majority in both houses and the biggest midterm question is whether they will continue to hold that advantage after Tuesday.

Misinformation Newsstand near Times Square New York newsstands in the run up to the midterms. Source: PA Images

In the gubernatorial elections, there are 36 state governorships to be decided. State Governors hold a powerful office and the outcome of these votes is also seen as important in how States may vote in presidential elections.

Republicans also have more governors than Democrats, 33 versus 16. Those numbers are unlikely to change dramatically but there are still some interesting gubernatorial races that we will discuss later.

What effect could the midterms have?

The Republicans having majorities in both houses means the party has a very strong control of the legislative agenda.

As well as being able to pass laws more easily, in the current political climate it also allows the party to protect President Trump from potential impeachment and restrict the scope of investigations, like the one by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

As well as the literal benefit of having more legislative votes, the midterms also provide parties with the chance to build momentum ahead of the next presidential race.

Trump himself is already focusing on re-election in 2020.

So how is the race looking?

A week out from the midterms, Democrats are seen as having a good chance of wrestling control of the House of Representatives from Republicans but less of a chance of winning the Senate.

This is down to the smaller number of seats up for grabs and the nature of those seats.

Of the 35 Senate seats that are being voted on, 26 seats are currently held by Democrats and just nine are held by Republicans.

Democrats need a net gain of two seats to flip control of the Senate, meaning that they’ll have to do the equivalent of regaining all their 26 seats and winning two of the nine seats currently held by Republicans.

It puts the party on the defensive, something made more difficult by the fact that many of the seats the party is defending are in states won by Trump in 2016.

One obvious example is Florida, a state which is always vital in the presidential race.

Trump won the state in 2016, one of the early indicators on election night that he would go on to defeat Hillary Clinton.

In Florida, Democrat Senator Bill Nelson is defending his seat against the state’s Republican Governor Rick Scott. The race is seen as close but is perhaps a must-win for Democrats.

Similarly in Indiana, the incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Donnelly is defending his seat against Mike Braun. Trump carried the state comfortably in 2016.

Election 2018 Trump A Trump supporter at a pre-midterm Texas rally. Source: Evan Vucci/PA Images

A couple of months ago, Democrats who have been trying to reinvigorate their supporters with anti-Trump sentiment had been hoping for a ‘Blue Wave‘ to deliver both houses to their side. This is now seen as less achievable.

In fact, while the two seat margin is close, Republicans may even be hoping to extend their majority in the Senate.

The House of Representatives is another prospect, however.

With far more seats up for grabs in the House, the electoral districts are much smaller and the Democrats hope that more suburban areas could turn from red to blue as a reaction to Trump.

For Democrats to overturn the Republican majority on the House, they need to flip at least 23 seats in their favour – something seen as much more achievable over the 435 seats that are available.

Source: CNN/YouTube

What are the interesting races that I should be looking out for?

Florida

Given the interest in the midterms, there are many. But here’s a couple that will be big stories over the next week.

As mentioned above, Florida Governor Rick Scott is running for the Senate. The two rivals battling to succeed him are Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum.

It’s perhaps the most-watched gubernatorial race, both because of the state’s importance in national politics and the two contenders involved.

PastedImage-93355 Source: Twitter

Gillum is the mayor of Florida state capital Tallahassee and would become the first African-American governor of the state. His tilt at the office came after he won an upset win against better funded Democrat party colleagues.

He is backed by Bernie Sanders and, having promised to work for universal healthcare, is seen as being on the left wing of the party.

Opposing him is DeSantis, a former congressman, a US Navy veteran and an avowed supported of Trump.

Election 2018 Race DeSantis and Gillum fist bump after a Florida debate. Source: Wilfredo Lee/PA Images

DeSantis was accused of racism in the early stages of the race and also made headlines when he released a campaign video showing him reading Trump’s Art of the Deal to his children.

Trump wading into the race by labelling Gillum as “a thief”, without explanation, only served to fuel interest in the race.

Texas

On the Senate side, perhaps the most box office race is in Texas between sitting Senator Ted Cruz and Democrat challenger Beto O’Rourke.

Cruz is best-known as being runner-up to Trump in the 2016 Republican primary was famously called “Lyin’ Ted” by the president in the bruising contest

He’s popular in his home state and he and Trump have made up, with the president holding a Houston rally last week with Cruz present on stage.

UPI 20181022 Senator Ted Cruz on the stump in Houston. Source: PA Images

Looking to unseat him is O’Rourke, a punk rocker-turned-congressman who espouses universal health, criminal justice reform and stronger gun-safety laws.

O’Rourke comes from a fourth-generation Irish-American family and his hometown is the border city of El Paso, Texas. Born as Robert O’Rourke, ‘Beto’ comes from the common Spanish nickname for names ending in ‘-berto’.

O’Rourke’s supporters know it’s an uphill battle to defeat Cruz in Texas, but Democrats have long argued that the state is not quite as red as people often suggest.

Texas is home to huge cities where O’Rourke will win out and the candidate has campaigned in all 254 counties in the state, hoping to pick up some rural votes as well.

Touted as a future leading light in the party, O’Rourke went viral with his response to the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.

Source: NowThis News/YouTube

Missouri

This is a prime Republican pick-up opportunity as they target vulnerable two-term Senate Democrat Claire McCaskill.

The Midwestern state has tilted steadily conservative in recent years, and Trump won it by 19 points over Clinton in 2016.

Republican Josh Hawley is polling neck-and-neck with McCaskill and Trump has campaigned for Hawley, calling him a “star.”

Should Republicans steal Missouri — or North Dakota or the aforementioned Indiana — the party is likely to retain its Senate majority.

Arizona

Source: NBC News/YouTube

The midterms will also see a record number of women appearing on ballot papers and in the state of Arizona two women are head-to-head for a coveted Senate seat.

The seat is being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake and is being contested by two sitting congresswomen, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Krysten Sinema.

McSally is an ex-fighter pilot who had been critical of Trump in 2016 but has since embraced the president, welcoming him to the state earlier this month.

In his visit to Arizona, Trump labelled the Democrats as being “too extreme and too dangerous” and said that anybody who votes for the party “is crazy”.

Sinema is a former Green Party activist who joined Democrats before being elected to the house in 2013. She was the first openly bisexual person elected to Congress and would be the first bisexual Senator if she is elected.

Despite being a former Green and her LGBT background, Sinema has one of the most conservative voting records of any Democrat and her party hopes this will help her appeal to a Republican voters in a state that Trump carried by just three percentage points in 2016.

Midterm Option 2 (1)

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Rónán Duffy

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