The White House has scotched rumours it will conduct a purge of top advisers if Democrats do badly in Tuesday’s midterm elections, despite concerns that voters see local races increasingly as a referendum on Barack Obama’s second-term performance.
Most opinion poll analysis suggests Republicans are likely to gain the six seats needed to take control of the Senate, with Democrats possibly losing in states such as Colorado and Iowa that were carried by Obama in the 2012 presidential election. The potential for runoffs in Louisiana and Georgia could delay a conclusive result until as late as January.
Other late polls and some early voting figures still suggest glimmers of hope for Democrats, particularly in North Carolina and New Hampshire, where the party’s candidates remain marginally ahead. But the loss of the Senate could have significant repercussions for party priorities such as immigration and healthcare, and lead to pressure for symbolic changes in response.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged some dissatisfaction in a press briefing on Monday, but downplayed the prospects of substantial change after Tuesday’s election, insisting it was also up to voters to change their minds about the president.
Voters are understandably frustrated with Washington DC, and they hold the president, the most powerful person in Washington, accountable for that. What they … should also do is examine the priorities that the president has been fighting for,” he told reporters.
The loss of Congress by Republicans during George W Bush’s second term in 2006 prompted him to fire defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld the next day, as part of a wider shakeup that also brought in a new chief of staff and Treasury secretary.
However, speculation about a similar reshuffle in the Obama administration has so far focused on the voluntary departure of more junior figures such as deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and senior adviser John Podesta, who is expected to join Hillary Clinton’s staff as she prepares for an expected presidential campaign.
Earnest confirmed some departures were likely as “members of the president’s staff to use the opportunity of the election” to leave the White House and “sort of engage in a transition”, but he rejected suggestions of a cull of big names.
There have been some presidents who have felt compelled in the aftermath of midterm elections to publicly fire high-profile members of the administration. At this point, I don’t anticipate that that will happen later this week,” he said.
“Those who have done the analytics here aren’t going to suggest that the way the president can sort of change his leadership is by hiring and firing a couple of staff members at the White House, added Earnest.
Republicans leaders says they would use control of Senate to find areas of common ground with the president, and are playing down calls by more conservative lawmakers for a confrontational series of investigative hearings into Obama’s performance.
Obviously, we intend to be a responsible governing Republican majority, if the American people give us the chance to do that,” Republican minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, told ABC in an interview from his campaign in Kentucky. “We’re hopeful it’s going to be a good night,” he added.
Republicans are expected to narrowly increase their lead in the House of Representatives, but face a slew of tough races for state governor, which could see the defeat of presidential hopeful Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
There are also a number of important ballot measures on issues such as marijuana legalisation and the minimum wage.
Polling opens at 7am in most states and will continue until midnight east coast time in Alaska !!!