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Staking Their Future on Voters

Today’s midterm elections are about more than control of Congress and voter satisfaction with President Barack Obama’s first two years in office. The results stand to launch or derail the careers of Washington’s most powerful players.

By Wednesday morning, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could essentaily see her career in politics ending, House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) could be the undisputed leader of the Republican Party and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could be a lame duck.

Roll Call takes a brief look at the stakes for those with the most to lose — or gain — from today’s vote.

President Barack Obama

Two weeks, 12 states, 19 events. Nothing underscores the stakes of the 2010 midterms for President Barack Obama like his jam-packed schedule in the runup to today’s elections.

But the real stakes for the president have to do with his own re-election campaign in 2012.

The expected erosion of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will weaken Obama’s ability to govern over the next two years. The more seats that his party loses to Republicans, the more pushback he can expect on his top priorities in the next Congress, which include climate change legislation, immigration reform, a $50 billion infrastructure investment and the start troop withdrawals in Afghanistan — all of which will be talking points in his re-election campaign.

Over the past two months, Obama has been investing significant political capital in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania, three of the most critical states in presidential elections. And recent surveys on the effects of his trips to Ohio illustrate how his travel schedule seems to be more about 2012 than affecting this year’s outcome.

A Quinnipiac University poll found Obama’s four visits to Ohio since August have had no effect on voters’ decisions on whether they will re-elect Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. A second poll from Fox News conducted by Pulse Opinion Research showed Strickland’s GOP opponent, John Kasich, ahead 49 percent to 43 percent, largely unchanged from its last survey a week earlier. Yet after both polls were released, Obama made another trip to Cleveland.

Obama has also been emphasizing the need for bipartisan cooperation on the biggest problems facing the nation. In his weekly radio address Saturday, he focused on the common ground that exists on jobs and the economy — issues likely to dominate the political sphere between now and 2012.

There are “practical steps we can take right away to promote growth and encourage businesses to hire and expand,” Obama said. “These are steps we all should be able to agree on — not Democratic or Republican ideas, but proposals that have traditionally been supported by both parties.”

— Jennifer Bendery

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid


LAS VEGAS — Like he has so many times during his tenure as Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid is counting votes.

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