Washington. United States voters demoralized by economic blight look certain to hand Republicans a midterm elections triumph on Tuesday, after souring on President Barack Obama’s Democrats just two years into his crusade for change.
Polls show Republicans set to seize the House of Representatives and slice into the Democratic majority in the Senate in a result set to divide power in Washington and sketch a polarized prelude to Obama’s 2012 re-election bid.
Republicans, electrified by the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, vow to reverse Obama’s sweeping health reforms, and promise a budget crunch and tax cuts which they claim will cut the deficit and ignite growth.
The election, for all 435 House seats and 37 spots in the Senate, comes as the euphoric hope Obama stirred in 2008 seems an age away, and with America’s trademark brash optimism drained by a national decline.
“We’ve tried it President Obama’s way. We’ve tried it Washington’s way. It hasn’t worked. It’s time to put the people back in charge,” John Boehner, the likely Republican House speaker said.
Though Republican George W. Bush was in the White House when the economy melted down in 2008, Boehner blames Obama for unemployment stubbornly pegged at 9.6 percent amid a sluggish economic recovery.
But Obama reminds voters of Bush’s culpability for driving the US economy into a “ditch,” claims credit for staving off a second Great Depression and says his policies have America back on the road to prosperity.
He also charges Republicans would hand power back to predatory health insurance companies and credit card and finance barons, by repealing health care and Wall Street reforms.
“The other side, basically what they want to do is go back to the exact same policies that got us into this mess in the first place,” Obama roared in Connecticut.
“We have tried what they’re selling right now,” he said.
“We tried it for eight years. It did not work. We are not going back to that. That is the choice in this election.”
Polls and forecasters predict Republicans will pick up anywhere between 45 and 70 seats in the House, more than the 39 they need for a majority, in a reverse of their losses in 2006 and 2008.
Control of the House would allow Republicans to thwart Obama’s ambitious plans to tackle global warming and immigration reform, and to control committees that could probe White House conduct.
The picture in the Senate is still uncertain, although Republicans look set to fall short of the 10 seats they need to take control.
Republicans are also favored to emerge on top in 37 state governor races.
A heavy loss on Tuesday would force Obama into a period of soul searching.
He could choose to seek common ground with emboldened Republicans who have already said their top priority is to deprive him of a second term.
Or, with his veto pen and the megaphone of the presidency, he could opt to stand his ground, hoping Republicans overreach.
In close Senate races, Democrats were fighting desperately against the Republican tide in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois.
The top casualty could be Democratic majority leader and Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who trails Sharron Angle, a favorite of the Tea Party movement, which emerged to oppose what conservatives see as Obama’s “big government” liberal agenda.
The White House will take solace that Obama’s ratings are higher than those enjoyed by Republican Ronald Reagan two years before he won reelection by a landslide in 1984.