Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Photo Finish: Close Presidential and Congressional Races Could Affirm the Status Quo

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
President Barack Obama delivered his closing argument to voters in the swing state of Virginia this week. No matter who wins the presidential election today, the partisanship of Washington, D.C. isn’t likely to change much.

Voters will make their voices heard today, but there won’t be much harmony.

At the end of a long and bitter campaign season, a dissonant electorate is likely to deliver a split decision that does little beyond endorse divided ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

For Americans wanting a more functional government that can get the big things done, today’s elections appear likely to deliver just the opposite — a capital as partisan, dysfunctional and deadlocked as many voters imagine it to be.

With a political wave or landslide implausible, a deeply divided country will give neither President Barack Obama nor Republican Mitt Romney a clear mandate for the next four years. The Senate will likely be controlled by the narrowest of margins and will be missing many of the moderates who used to walk its halls. And while the House will remain comfortably in Republican hands, the majority will be split between the party’s pragmatic and purist branches and the chamber will be nearly devoid of conservative Democrats.

Much of the dissonance comes from the voters themselves, who are split among different choruses and led by different conductors. Voters are more partisan, trust the mainstream media less and rely on their own social networks for news more, narrowing the scope of the political discussion.

Those who find comfort in MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” go to the polls today with a much different vision of the world than voters who watch FOX News’ “Hannity.” The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report deliver different versions of reality.

A deluge of negative advertising in federal campaigns at every level has surely chipped away at national comity as well. The 2012 cycle has seen relentless attacks on incumbents and candidates from Florida to Maine to California and everywhere in between. If voters suspected politics was base and ignoble, the hundreds of ads on their televisions provided confirmation that no candidate was above the fray.

Yet bipartisanship still makes for a good stump speech.

“I won’t represent just one party. I’ll represent one nation,” Romney said Saturday, delivering one of his closing arguments in New Hampshire.

“I’ll work with anybody of any party to move this country forward,” Obama echoed in Virginia a few hours later.

Despite the discord of the campaign, the elected representatives who survive — as well as the lame ducks who are retiring or have been voted out of office — will have heavy lifting to do practically as soon as the mud bath is over.

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Election Day Forecast

Election Day weather doesn’t look to be much of a factor in many House and Senate races this cycle, although the fallout from Hurricane Sandy will no doubt hurt turnout in the Northeast.





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