WASHINGTON — In every midterm election since the Civil War, the president’s party has lost, on average, 32 seats in the House and two in the Senate.
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Democrats need only 24 seats to flip the House and two to take the Senate.
“History says we’re going to lose the majority,” said Cory Bliss, the executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, a major Republican super PAC. “Our job is defy history.”
Rarely has a president alienated so many Americans so quickly as Donald Trump. And after nearly a year of total GOP control in Washington, voters say by double digits they’d rather have the Democrats in charge on Capitol Hill.
“There’s a lot of buyer’s remorse out here,” said Tim Waters, the political director of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworkers union. “People have gone out of their way to give these guys a chance, and it just hasn’t paid off.”
But the GOP majorities are defended not just by incumbency and super PACs, but by structural advantages in both chambers.
In the Senate, the battleground offers far more liabilities than opportunities for Democrats because the 33 states in play next year are redder than average.
“We’re going to have a headwind, there’s no question about that,” said Rob Jesmer, the former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “The question is, does the map bail us out?”
And in the House, Democrats will need to win the popular vote by an especially wide margin to overcome GOP gerrymandering and Democrats’ own natural geographic handicap. That basically means Democrats can’t take the chamber without a landslide.
mocrats can’t take the chamber without a landslide.
For instance, in 2012, House Democrats won about 1 million more votes nationwide than Republicans, but that wasn’t big enough to put them anywhere near retaking the chamber.
Meanwhile, Republican voters are typically more reliable than Democrats in non-presidential elections, making it less likely to see the kind of collapse Barack Obama suffered during his two midterm elections in 2010, when his party lost the majority in the House, and in 2014, when they lost the Senate.
“The problem is Trump is still very popular within in the Republican Party, like it or not,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio. “It’s hard to have a wave if the intensity with the incumbent is high.”
Things can and will change. An unexpected and quickly forgotten Ebola scare, and dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis, dominated the final weeks of the 2014 midterms and gave a boost to Republicans.
What to watch:
“The political structure of some of these states will allow us to save a majority in what will be a very difficult year,” said Jesmer, the former top GOP Senate operative.
Only a third of the Senate’s 100 seats are up for grabs in any one election, and with this set, Republicans lucked out.
Democrats have to defend 10 seats in states Trump won, including in five where he won by double digits and where he remains popular. That leaves them with just two solid pickup opportunities — in Nevada and Arizona.
Nonetheless, there are still a few wildcards that could shake up the stalemate.
“If we nominate fringe candidates who show they aren’t ready to govern, we’re going to sacrifice seats,” said Alex Conant, a former adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Senate Democrats have become adept at quietly sidelining candidates they think are unelectable and clearing the way for favored ones.
Meanwhile, two senators are facing serious health issues, including one, John McCain, R-Ariz., from a competitive state, and another, Thad Cochran, R-Miss., whose vacancy would trigger a potentially nasty GOP primary.
Democrats are also hoping to expand the map and get lucky with more strong candidates like former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who thrilled his party by jumping into the race for an open Senate seat.
“The lesson from Alabama is, if you field the right candidate and the environment is right, that nothing is in the realm of the impossible,” said Lynda Tran, a founding partner of the Obama-aligned 270 Strategies.
What to watch:
With control of the chamber — and the potential impeachment of the president that could come with it — on the line, the House will upstage its big brother in the Senate this time around.
There are so many rosy data points for House Democrats it’s hard to know where to begin. Democratic challengers are out-fundraising, out-polling and out-recruiting both their own records and their GOP incumbents, 32 of whom have already decided to retire rather than run for re-election (compared to 16 Democrats).
Polling, wrote analyst Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight, shows “Republicans in worse shape right now than any other majority party at this point in the midterm cycle since at least the 1938 election.”
Preparing for a wave, Democrats are putting as many proverbial surfboards as possible in the water, targeting 91 congressional districts (compared to 36 for Republicans).
“The Democratic enthusiasm here is unprecedented. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Pat Ryan, who is running against a Republican incumbent in an upstate New York district that swung from Obama to Trump.
Ryan, a West Point graduate who did two tours in Iraq before starting a small IT business, is indicative of the bumper crop of quality candidates Democrats have managed to recruit this year.
“You are seeing credible candidates in races that we’ve never been competitive in before,” said Charlie Kelly, the executive director of House Majority PAC, Democrats’ primary House super PAC.
To defend their majority, Republicans are reaching for a familiar playbook.
Such attacks worked against Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s special congressional election this year, but they may also be Republicans’ only card to play.
Republicans’ don’t dispute that there’s an enthusiasm gap, but they see a silver lining in the competitive and potentially damaging Democratic primaries across the country.
Jim Hagedorn, a Republican running in a Democratic-held Minnesota district considered one of the GOP’s best pickup opportunities, has watched happily as he says the seven candidates vying to be his Democratic opponent trip over themselves to adopt “goofy left” positions on guns and abortion, among other issues.
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By Jim Tankersley & Emily Baumgaertner New York Times
WASHINGTON — The United States census is so much more than just a head count. It is a snapshot of America that determines how congressional seats are apportioned, how state and federal dollars are distributed, where businesses choose to ship products and where they build new stores. To do all that properly, the count needs to be accurate.
The Commerce Department’s decision to restore a citizenship question to the census beginning in 2020 is prompting concerns about curtailing participation and possibly undercounting people living in the United States, particularly immigrants and minority groups who are expressing discomfort with answering questions from census workers.
Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, acknowledged concerns about decreased response rates in a memorandum released on Monday night. But he said asking about citizenship would enhance the results by helping calculate the percentage of the population eligible to vote.
An undercount of the population would have far-reaching implications. It could skew the data that are used to determine how many congressional representatives each state gets and their representation in state legislatures and local government bodies. It would shape how billions of dollars a year are allocated, including for schools and hospitals. It would undermine the integrity of a wide variety of economic data and other statistics that businesses, researchers and policymakers depend on to make decisions, including the numbers that underpin the forecasts for Social Security beneficiaries.
Here are several of the commercial, political and research efforts that depend on accurate
The Constitution requires the government to enumerate the number of people living in the United States every 10 years, and to use that data to apportion the seats in Congress among the states. The calculation is based on total resident population — which means citizens and noncitizens alike — and it generally shifts power between the states once a decade, in line with population and migration trends.
States including Texas, Florida, Colorado and Oregon are projected to gain seats after the 2020 numbers are in. Illinois, Ohio, New York and West Virginia are among the states expected to lose seats. An undercount could shift those projections.
Lawmakers also use census data to draw congressional district boundaries within states, an often-controversial process that can help decide partisan control of the House. Census data also underpin state legislative districts and local boundaries like City Councils and school boards.
The federal government bases a large amount of its spending decisions on census data. Researchers concluded last year that in the 2015 fiscal year, 132 government programs used information from the census to determine how to allocate more than $675 billion, much of it for programs that serve lower-income families, including Head Start, Medicare, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Pell grants for college and reduced-price school lunch programs. Highway spending is also apportioned according to census data.
To sell products and services, companies large and small need good information on the location of potential customers and how much money they might have to spend. The census provides the highest-quality and most consistent information on such items, and businesses have come to depend on it to make critical choices.
Census data help companies decide where to locate distribution centers to best serve their customers, where to expand or locate new stores and where they have the best chance of seeing a high return on investment. That is why business groups have been particularly concerned about the integrity of that data.
“The 2020 census is used to help construct many other data products produced by the federal government,” said Michael R. Strain, an economist at the American Enterprise Institute who writes frequently on the importance of census data for policymakers and the private sector.
“Some of those products are heavily used by businesses when determining where to open new stores and expand operations, or even what items to put on their shelves. This affects retail businesses, for sure, but businesses in many other sectors as well,” he added.
Low response rates from any one demographic group would undermine the validity of various population-wide statistics and program planning.
Scientists use census data to understand the distribution of diseases and health concerns such as cancer and obesity across the United States population, including drilling down to race and ethnicity to identify health patterns across demographics. Public health officials then use the data to target their interventions in at-risk communities. Inaccurate census data could lead public health officials to invest in solving a problem that does not exist — or worse, to overlook one that does.
“It’s getting harder to conduct the census, due to a variety of factors, including increasing cultural & linguistic diversity, and distrust of the government,” said Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist who directs the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University. “The addition of the citizenship question will make the enumerators’ jobs even harder by heightening privacy concerns and reducing participation among immigrants, who may fear the information will be used to harm them or their families.”
An undercount in the census could also impact forecasts about Social Security payouts, which are already increasing as a share of the federal government’s revenue.
When Congress plans for the costs of the country’s Social Security needs, lawmakers rely upon demographic projection about the population’s future: the number of children expected to be born, the number of people expected to die, and the number of people expected to immigrate. If baseline data regarding the current population are inaccurate, future projections could be skewed, causing financial challenges down the line.
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