What's At Stake In The US Midterm Elections: Trump Triumph Or Trashing?
Next week, November 6, Americans vote for the first time since Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
Trump is not on the ballot papers. But he looms so large, the result -- good or bad -- will be read as a verdict on his performance.
So what is at stake?
The US midterm elections decide who controls Congress, essentially the American Parliament.
In Trump’s presidency so far, both chambers of Congress -- the Senate and the House of Representatives -- have been controlled by his Republican Party.
Next week, that could change.
There are 100 members of the Senate. In the current chamber, 51 are Republicans. It is a knife-edge majority, but the Republicans will likely hold on to it.
Only one-third of Senators come up for a vote at each election. A kink of history means this time most will be Democrats. Indeed, because those Democrats were elected in 2012 at the height of the Obama years, the Republicans this time could increase their majority.
The House of Representatives is a different story. All 435 members of the lower house are up for judgement. Seven seats are vacant after deaths and resignations, but if those seats are allocated back to their original parties, the Republicans go into this vote holding 240 seats to the Democrats 195.
Whoever gets 218 seats holds a majority. So a 23-seat swing hands control to the Democrats.
That is a thoroughly achievable number.
“The midterms are always difficult for the President's party to win,” said Dr Binoy Kampmark, of RMIT’s School of Global, Urban and Social Sciences.
“In the post-World War II period, the median seat losses for the President's party is around 22.”
Polling analysts FiveThirtyEight.com put the Democrats’ chances of seizing the House at 86 percent.
The wild card will be voter turnout.
So if the Democrats do take the lower house, what then?
A Democratic Congress can thwart the President’s agenda. It can also order inquiries with powers to coerce witnesses into giving evidence. Anything from President Trump’s tax affairs to his overseas business interests could be fair game.
The House also has powers to impeach the President.
That is a popular ambitions with Democratic Party firebrands, although party elders are largely against it.
“I don’t think there’s a basis for doing that right now,” said former vice-president Joe Biden.
Senior Democrat Nancy Pelosi told CNN:
“Impeachment is a very divisive approach. Elections should determine who is in office.”
Without clear evidence of serious corruption, such as President Nixon's involvement in the Watergate cover-up, the public mood appears to be hostile to impeachment.
Republican support went backwards when it moved to impeach Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky affair in 1998.
Americans go into this vote divided on almost every demographic.
According to FiveThirtyEight analyst Geoffrey Skelley, if only men voted, the Republicans would romp home. If only women voted, Democrats would run the country.
White people with university education vote overall for Democrats.
White Americans without university education are solid for Trump. If white people didn’t vote at all, the percentage support for Republicans would struggle to make double figures.
If the Republicans defy predictions and hold on in both chambers, a triumphant Donald Trump will use that as a springboard for his re-election campaign in 2020. The frustration among anti-Trumps will hit new highs.
If Congress goes Democratic, the country will hit a logjam. Washington in-fighting will dominate every more than it has.
Whatever the outcome of the midterms, the result is likely to be an even more divided America.