Six years into the administration of Democratic president Barack Obama and four years after the midterm elections that delivered control of the US House of Representatives to the Republicans and conservative speaker John Boehner, most polls and poll aggregate forecasts give the Republicans anywhere from a strong (70%) to moderate (74%) to an overwhelming (96%) chance to retake the Senate.
It’s not uncommon for the ‘six-year itch’ to reward the non-presidential party with gains in midterm elections. Throughout the post-war era, in every midterm election during the second term of a reelection president, the opposition party has made gains each time — with the exception of 1998, when the Democrats benefited from a strong economy and Republican overreach in pursuing what would eventually become impeachment hearings against US president Bill Clinton over alleged perjury in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
It’s also not unheard of that foreign policy can drive larger narratives about presidencies.
Most recently, in 2006, Democrats recaptured both houses in midterm elections, forcing then-president George W. Bush to accept the resignation of his defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in light of the war in Iraq’s unpopularity and the unfolding sectarian civil war taking place there despite US military occupation. As it turns out, the 2006 midterms paved the way for a much more moderate tone to the final two years of the Bush administration and a change in strategy under Robert Gates, Rumsfeld’s successor, who ultimately stayed on as defense secretary until 2011, lending a sense of continuity to the Obama administration’s approach to defense policy.
So what exactly would a Republican Senate mean for US foreign policy in the final two years of the Obama administration? Continue reading What a Republican Senate means for world politics