Louis Hannegan & Nick Harmon, Managing Editor & Contributor
After months of anticipation, Election Day is upon us. With polls open in the Dallas-Fort Worth area until 7 p.m. today, local voters still have a few hours to vote on not only the presidency, but also many other significant offices down the ballot.
On the state level, seats in the Texas House of Representatives are up for election, as are roughly half of those in the state Senate. According to assistant politics professor Dr. David Upham, few doubt that the Republicans will retain control of both houses.
“What is in doubt,” Upham said, “is whether they will retain, increase or lose some seats. That is not insignificant because several important legislative issues require effectively a two-thirds majority. Right now they are right on the cusp of that majority in both houses.”
On the national level, Texans have one U.S. Senate seat to fill as well as their 36 seats in the House of Representatives, four of which Texas acquired because of the redistricting following the 2010 census.
“Almost everyone agrees that Ted Cruz is likely to win [the Senate] by a wide margin,” Upham said. “Control of the Senate may be inTed Cruz is far ahead in both polling and fundraising. The Democratic challenger [Paul Sadler], frankly, is not taken seriously. “
Upham added that the “Republicans are likely to retain control of the House of Representatives. But, they say, that’s why we play the game. Like in football, we don’t know yet, that’s why we play the game.”
Texans also have a say in the presidency, a race upon which many important issues, including the survival of the highly controversial Obamacare law, rest.
“President Obama will be able to preserve much of it and President Romney will be able to dismantle much of it, especially if he has assistance from Congress,” Upham said.
Politics department Chairman Dr. Richard Dougherty also weighed in on this point, noting the importance of the Senate in any efforts against Obamacare.
“If Romney is elected and if the Republicans capture the Senate,” Dougherty said, “then you might actually get a rejection of or a withdrawal of or an overturning of portions of Obamacare. But if Romney wins and the Republicans don’t win the Senate then it’s going to be much more difficult for Republicans to overturn Obamacare.
“If Obama wins, or if Romney wins but the Republicans don’t capture the Senate, what it will essentially do is hold in place everything that was done in the first Obama administration,” he added.
Both Dougherty and Upham also highlighted the economy as another issue at stake in this race.
“[A]ll parties would take the budget seriously, and acknowledge the resolution of the fiscal crisis will require significant spending cuts and maybe also some additional revenue,” Upham said. “But the degree to which a) a solution is reached, a compromise is reached, and b) to which the actual solution involves more spending cuts relative to tax increase is very much at stake.”
Upham said he thought Romney would institute more spending cuts, something he thought Obama would avoid.
Dougherty added that other critical economic issues mattered to voters, such as jobs growth, tax rates and regulations as well as the determining of how to hold together and fund Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security amid an aging population.
Beyond the economy, Upham threw three Supreme Court picks into the mix of factors affecting the presidential election.
“We currently have a four-one-four liberal/conservative court with one swing vote,” Upham said, “and in the next four years it is not unlikely that three judges, one liberal, Justice [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, one conservative, Justice [Antonin] Scalia, and the swing voter, Justice [Anthony] Kennedy, may all retire. And if that’s the case, the next president may be able to turn a four-one-four court into a six-three conservative or six-three liberal majority.”
Both Upham and Dougherty said the fate of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)mandate hangs in the balance.
“The HHS mandate, that’s decided upon by the president. So if you have a new president and a new head of HHS, they can just rescind the mandate,” Dougherty said. “That could be eliminated on day one.”
Upham was confident that as president, Romney would do just that.
“But under President Obama,” he said, “it is not likely absent a judicial invalidation, and it’s unclear whether the courts at this point would in fact do that.”