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US midterm election madness

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US midterm electionBy Camille Elhassani

Summer in Washington is over. Congress is headed back to work next week, and Democrats running for re-election in November weren't able to spend too many warm days at the beach. The unemployment rate rose and President Barack Obama's poll numbers sank.

Despite his low poll numbers, the best campaigner in the United States is going back on the stump. The Democratic National Committee has announced Obama will hold at least four rallies in swing states and a tele-town hall meeting before Election Day.

Even when not officially stumping for individual candidates, Obama has been going around the country touting his administration's accomplishments, laying out ideas to boost the US economy, and attacking Republicans for being obstructionist.

Speaking to a group of labour activists in Wisconsin on Monday, Obama said, "When it comes to just about everything we've done to strengthen our middle class, to rebuild our economy, almost every Republican in Congress says no. Even on things we usually agree on, they say no. If I said the sky was blue, they say no. If I said fish live in the sea, they'd say no. They just think it's better to score political points before an election than to solve problems."

Democrats in jeopardy

But will Obama's presence on the campaign trail be enough to keep his party in the majority in the House and Senate? Every other day a new poll is released showing that the Democrats grow more and more in jeopardy of losing their majority in one or both chambers. Americans want to see more progress on the stagnant economy and polls show them ready to take it out on the party in power.

Voters may not be willing to let Obama keep trying it his way if they don't see tangible results. A Washington Post poll out this week found 52 per cent disapprove of Obama's job performance and in a generic ballot, 53 per cent of likely voters would cast their ballots for the Republican candidate.

The Republican Congressional leadership is set to release their agenda in a couple of weeks, which will detail what they intend to do if they win the majority on November 2.  They're telling voters that they'll halt and undo the Obama agenda. Reportedly, they plan to withhold unspent stimulus funds, investigate the Obama administration, and stop funding parts of the healthcare reform act.

Republican strategy

While they work on the agenda, three up and coming Republicans in the House of Representatives are addressing the Party's image problem.  They're coming out with a book next week called "Young Guns," which mildly criticizes the Republican Party for getting away from its core principles of low taxes and small government.  In the book, Representative Eric Cantor writes, "The good news is that there's a new generation of limited government, free-market leaders ready to move the country forward in a more prosperous direction." The hope is voters will reject Obama's characterisation of the Republican Party as the "party of no" and see them as young and having fresh ideas.

While the Republicans are honing their midterm message and Obama goes on the offensive against them, the President's top aide is considering mounting his own potential race. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may be heading back to Chicago to run for mayor. Mayor Richard Daley has decided not to run for re-election next year after being in office since 1989. In the past, Emanuel has expressed interest in the job of chief executive of the nation's 3rd largest city. His toughness is famous around both Washington and Chicago. He's sometimes nicknamed "Rahmbo".

Obama praised Emanuel on Thursday morning, saying he "would be an excellent mayor". But he added that he didn't expect his Chief of Staff to make a decision until after the midterm elections. All hands are apparently, needed on deck.

Camille Elhassani is Al Jazeera English's Senior White House Producer.


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