barack-obama-staring.jpgBy Justin Mahlahla


Republicans look set to oust the Democrats in what promises to be a tough political year for the United States in general, and President Barack Obama in particular, with the American leader’s approval rating dropping to 43 percent from 47 percent last month.


53 percent of Americans say they disapprove of the way he is handling his job.

A Reuters-Ipsos poll found Democrats’ approval rating of Obama has dropped to 70 percent this month from 78 percent last month.


Much of this decline came from his own Democrats. Obama’s handling of the economy was a leading cause of the drop.

Meanwhile, the poll has projected victory for Republicans over Democrats ahead of today’s Congressional elections.


The national poll found that Americans plan to vote for Republicans over Democratic candidates by 48 percent to 44 percent, an edge that will likely give Republicans dozens of seats in the House and big gains in the Senate.


The poll numbers suggest Republicans would win around 227 seats in the House to 208 for the Democrats, Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said. In the Senate, the poll indicates Democrats would retain control but with a smaller, 52-to-48 seat margin.


A split Congress like that could mean political gridlock after November as the United States struggles to overcome high unemployment, the gaping budget deficit and a fierce debate over tax cuts. Much will depend on whether Obama and Republicans can work together.























The party that controls the House or the Senate holds crucial power, taking the lead in writing bills and deciding which to bring up for a vote and when. A Republican House could pass legislation, such as promised tax relief, on simple majority votes and without any Democratic support. But Senate Democrats could block House-passed bills, including any repeal of Obama’s healthcare overhaul.


Even if Republicans win control of the Senate, they would need 60 seats to avoid a Democratic “filibuster,” a procedural hurdle used to block measures in the 100-member chamber.


Republicans are not expected to get 60 seats in the Senate — or the 67 needed to override presidential vetoes. That could cause gridlock, with Congress passing only mandatory spending bills and non-controversial measures.


Republicans very likely will not have the votes to override an Obama veto of any legislation to repeal his healthcare law.


But they could try to cut off funding to prevent full implementation of the landmark program that passed Congress without Republican support.


Republican John Boehner, in line to become House speaker if his party wins control of that chamber, recently said he was committed to do everything he can to overturn the reform.


But Ethan Siegal of the Washington Exchange, a private firm that tracks Congress for investors, said: “It’s going to be very difficult for Republicans to defund, defang, kill or impede healthcare reform legislatively.”


Obama would veto any bill to repeal and he could also reject any measure that fails to provide funds to federal agencies to implement the overhaul. Failure to agree on spending bills could result in the shutting down of some agencies but that is unlikely.


The bigger threats to full implementation of Obama’s healthcare overhaul are public opposition and court challenges.


The country was judged to be on the wrong track by 63 percent of American voters, the highest figure in this poll since Obama took office in early 2009 promising change and a path out of an economic slump.


But with unemployment lingering at 9.6 percent, much of that hope has crashed.


All 435 House seats and 37 of the 100-member Senate are up for grabs in the elections, the outcome of which is likely to help

determine the course of the second half of Obama’s four-year term.


Obama, who warned supporters in Rhode Island late Monday to “run scared” of losing their congressional majorities, planned to mount an 11th-hour coast-to-coast blitz through crucial battlegrounds.


barack_obama.jpg“I’ve got to have you come out in droves and vote in this election. You’ve got to come out and vote. And, look, if everybody who voted in 2008 votes in 2010, we are confident we will win this election,” he said.


Historically, a sitting US president’s party loses seats in his first mid-term elections, though such contests have not been good predictors of chances for a second term. There was little change since last month in terms of the most important problems facing


Americans — 49 percent said it is the U.S. economy and jobs.

Americans want the focus of the next Congress in 2011 to be on jobs. Among those surveyed, 65 percent said creating jobs should be a “crucial” focus and 97 percent said it is important.


Besides jobs, Americans would like to see Congress address the soaring budget deficit, healthcare, taxes and energy. Of least importance on this list, although still deemed fairly important, are the environment and the war in Afghanistan.


Obama has been traveling extensively seeking to bolster Democratic enthusiasm about voting on November 2, blaming Republicans for the worst recession since the Great Depression and saying they would bring back discredited economic policies.


“The question in this election is not whether or not things are where we want them to be. The question is who is going to help us get to where we want to be,” he told a Democratic fundraiser in Miami on Monday.