Why the US midterms matter and what issues are on the ballot

ITV News US correspondent Emma Murphy reports on why the mid-terms represents such a pivotal period in American politics

This is a big week in American politics. And it really is, despite the fact that in recent years, big days, weeks or months in the American system have often been oversold.

Up for grabs tomorrow is political control of Congress, with a huge bearing on domestic politics and potentially global order in the short, medium and long term. No small deal then.

The three main things voters are being asked to decide on are:

  • 100% of the House of Representatives

  • 33% of the Senate

  • Numerous governor races across the country

The presidency isn’t on the ballot but you could be forgiven for thinking it is.

This is the first nationwide election since Joe Biden was voted into the White House. Though mid-terms are historically a moment to kick the incumbent party, this one has a moment of history of its own because many Republicans on the ballot believe, or purport to believe, he’s only in the White House because the 2020 election was stolen. There’s no precedent for that in history.

Enter stage right Donald Trump with a whirlwind campaign of rallies and endorsements for election-deniers and that in itself puts the whole issue of democracy up for question as never before.

Donald Trump drums up support for Republican candidates at a rally in Iowa. Credit: AP

The president doesn’t come at any of this from a strong point and that will likely damage the party. His approval rating is dire - below and often well below 50% for a long time now - inflation is at a 40-year high and the murder rate is on the rise.

Set aside politics and look at real life and daily reality is likely to seriously affect the middle of the road swing voter. America isn’t on paper in recession but it feels like it is to many. Paychecks don’t keep up with bills, rental prices are up 25%, it costs more to fill the car. That’s the stuff that matters.

And aside from fiscal security, a sense of physical security really matters to voters and many don’t feel it. The abortion debate seemed to shift momentum for a while but it’s not delivering in the way some on the left had expected it to.

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The Democrats are at real risk of losing the House and significant risk of losing the Senate. That would stymie domestic legislative change and, when it comes to foreign policy, could be a serious issue for funding of the war in Ukraine and other global commitments.

Go to the lower level races for governor and there’s another issue. A significant number of potentially victorious Republican candidates are willing to state 2020 was a stolen election. Come 2024 they will wield great power in overseeing the election. This midterm vote therefore comes with potentially significant long-term import.

That’s why these midterms are totally normal, yet totally different and that’s why this really is a big week in American politics.