The United States of America brought in change in 2009. In 2010, it is charged with the responsibility of guarding that change. US President Barack Obama’s declining approval ratings remind of the drop in popularity faced by Ronald Reagan, who had to deal with a recession in the early 1980s and saw his party’s numbers go down in Congressional Elections before winning a second presidential term.
In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of Zeenews.com, Donald R Wolfensberger, a US political analyst, discusses the significance of US mid-term polls and its effect on Asia, particularly India.
Donald R Wolfensberger is director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars.
Kamna: How important are these mid-term polls for the Democrats as well as the Republicans?
Donald: The mid-term elections are critical for both the parties. For the Democrats, it means holding on to their majorities in the House and Senate so that they can continue to work with their Democratic president on legislation important to the party and country. For Republicans, it means gaining back majority control, at least in the House if not in the Senate too, and posing some counterbalance to what they see as government overreach by Obama and congressional Democrats. The mid-terms are also especially important to both parties in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential Elections as the new Congress will determine what issues are most prominent in that election by its actions (or inaction).
Kamna: How will these mid-term polls affect Obama’s presidency?
Donald: The elections will shape how much the President can realistically expect to accomplish in the next two years and therefore how well he is positioned to win a re-election in 2012.
Kamna: Will Obama’s campaigning help the Democrats or will the Republicans steal the show?
Donald: The President`s campaigning is providing some impetus to the party base and new voters who elected him to get motivated and vote. The biggest gap between the two parties in this election has been the so-called "enthusiasm gap" which shows more Republicans indicating they are likely to vote than Democrats. Moreover, a big factor in the election will be the independent voters who supported Obama in 2008 by a nearly 60-40 margin but are now leaning towards the Republicans by the same margin.
Kamna: According to you, which issues are going to be the deciding factors in these polls?
Donald: Three issues are most important in this election: "Jobs, jobs and jobs."
Kamna: How will the outcome of US mid-term polls affect ties between Washington and New Delhi?
Donald: Mid-term elections have little impact on the direction of American foreign policy (except when it comes to public attitudes on a war the US is involved in) since the President will still be in charge of the foreign policy regardless of the outcome. Even if Republicans win control of one or both the Houses of Congress, they tend to be supportive of presidents (regardless of party) on most foreign policy issues. One can expect the US to pay increasing attention to India and our relations with it over the next two years and beyond.
Kamna: What can Asia expect from the US after mid-term polls?
Donald: We can expect a tough examination of our posture toward the continent over a variety of issues, from military assistance, intelligence cooperation, currency reform (China), trade, aid and business investment -- little of which would have been occasioned by the election results. Rather, the usual mid-term review any administration conducts is to chart its course for the next two years. Congress will play some role in all this through its regular oversight, authorisation and appropriations processes.
Kamna: How will these elections play out for Mideast peace?
Donald: Again, the Mideast peace negotiations will not be affected one way or another by the election results. This is something majorities of either party tend to defer to the President and State Department negotiators on.