U.S.: Congressional Races Are Unlikely to Change Immediate Power Balance

Three off-year elections Tuesday are being seen as a mini-referendum on President Barack Obama's first 12 months in power.

Vice President Joseph Biden was due in upstate New York on Monday to campaign in a dramatic congressional race on behalf of the struggling Democratic candidate.

 Obama campaigned Sunday in New Jersey's gubernatorial election, where Democrat Jon Corzine -- the incumbent governor in a heavily Democratic state -- is neck-and-neck with Republican former prosecutor Chris Christie.

 Obama has also campaigned in Virginia's gubernatorial contest, but to little avail, with latest polls showing Republican Bob McDonnell on course to beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by a wide margin.

The races will do little to change the immediate power balance in Washington, where Democrats have dominated since last year's general election, AFP reports.

 It was also reported, for Republicans, an election win of any size Tuesday would be a blessing. But victories in Virginia, New Jersey or elsewhere won't erase enormous obstacles the party faces heading into a 2010 midterm election year when control of Congress and statehouses from coast to coast will be up for grabs.

 It's been a tough few years for the GOP. The party lost control of Congress in 2006 and then lost the White House in 2008 with three traditional Republican states — Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia — abandoning the party.

 So even if political winds start blowing harder behind them and even if they can capitalize on Democratic missteps, Republicans still will have a long way to go over the next year because of their party's own fundamental problems — divisions over the path forward, the lack of a national leader and a shrinking base in a changing nation.

 The GOP would overcome none of those hurdles should Republican Bob McDonnell win the Virginia governor's race, Chris Christie emerge victorious in the New Jersey governor's contest, or conservative Doug Hoffman triumph in a hotly contested special congressional election in upstate New York, The Associated Press reports.

 News agencies also report, in the final days before this November's contests, attention has shifted to a highly unusual contest in upstate New York, a district Republicans have held since the Civil War. When longtime incumbent John McHugh became secretary of the Army and vacated the seat, the GOP county chairs chose as his replacement a state legislator named Dede Scozzafava, hoping her moderate-to-liberal views would appeal to independents.

 That provoked a rebellion on the right, benefiting Doug Hoffman, who had the ballot line for the New York Conservative Party. Activists from around the country, including Sarah Palin from Alaska and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey from Texas, rallied to Hoffman. It got ugly enough that Scozzafava dropped out, three days before the election, and endorsed Democratic nominee Bill Owens.

However small the president's role has actually been this fall, the focus on him is fair in one sense. The results of these elections will affect him. They will make his struggles in Washington a tad easier, or more difficult, depending on how they change the political conversation, NPR reports.


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