This week marked the traditional start of the campaign season in the United States after Labor Day. Congressional, state and local elections are November seventh.
The Republican Party has controlled both houses of Congress for almost twelve years; opposition Democrats see a chance to win back at least one. These are called midterm elections because they come halfway through the president's term.
The Democrats need to gain fifteen out of four hundred thirty-five seats to take control of the House of Representatives. It is unusual for members of Congress to be voted out of office. And most political experts believe changing the current balance of power in the Senate would be even more difficult.
Democrats hold eighteen of the seats that will be on the ballot and Republicans hold fifteen. To gain a majority, the Democrats need to win six of those seats and not lose any of their own.
In opinion studies, more than sixty percent of the Americans questioned say they disapprove of President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. But about fifty percent say they support his policies for the war on terror. So security could be a deciding issue on Election Day.
President Bush says the country is safer now than it was before the September eleventh attacks. In recent days, the president has given a series of speeches before the fifth anniversary.
He confirmed the use of foreign prisons by the Central Intelligence Agency to question suspected terrorists. And he asked Congress to approve the use of military commissions to try suspected terrorists for war crimes. The Supreme Court ruled in June that his plans required such approval.
Mister Bush is also urging Congress to approve his decision about monitoring the international calls and e-mail of people in the United States, without a court order. Last month, a federal judge in Detroit ruled the program illegal and unconstitutional. A number of legal experts questioned her reasoning, and the ruling is being appealed.
Congress has a lot of unfinished work, but just a few weeks before lawmakers leave to campaign. For example, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says it would be "next to impossible" to pass an immigration reform bill by then. So efforts will center on increased border security and enforcement of rules against employing illegal immigrants.
|Felipe Calderon holds up a newspaper that says: "YES Calderon, Elected Unanimously." Mexico's electoral court was undivided in its ruling declaring him president-elect.|
The loss of millions of workers to the United States is one issue that will face Mexico's next president. On Tuesday, Mexico's electoral court declared Felipe Calderon the winner of the July election by less than one percent of the votes. The decision cannot be appealed.
Opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he will not accept it. His supporters say there was cheating and illegal government support for Mister Calderon. After weeks of protests, they plan to gather on September sixteenth -- Mexico’s Independence Day. They will discuss what Mister Lopez Obrador says will be a separate government.
President Vicente Fox finishes his six-year term in December.
IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Brianna Blake. I’m Steve Ember.