According to the Commerce Department, Gross Domestic Product, the broadest measure of the nation's economy, grew at a 2 percent annual pace in the third quarter of 2010. That's slightly better than the modest 1.7 percent growth recorded in the second quarter.
Other reports this week, though positive, failed to indicate substantial recovery. Orders for durable goods rose 3.3 percent in September in their best showing since January. But, excluding the volatile transportation sector, orders actually declined by nearly 1 percent.
And after the worst summer in nearly half-a-century, new home sales grew 6.6 percent last month, and are up 9 percent from the bottom in May. Nevertheless sales of new homes are still down 78 percent from their peak in July of 2005.
The weak economic expansion will NOT be lost on the Federal Reserve, which is widely expected to announce details next week about its latest efforts to defibrillate the U.S. economy. But a day before the Fed completes its meetings, voters will head to the polls for the midterm elections.
A shifting political landscape will likely affect a vast number of Obama Administration initiatives in the coming years. Everything from tax policy to immigration reform…to energy overhauls could soon face a Republican Speaker of the House and a slim Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.
An impending sea change in Washington could makeover dozens of committee leadership positions, including agriculture.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson could trade roles with current ranking member and Oklahoman Frank Lucas. Representative Lucas, traveling across the country during farm bill listening sessions this spring, previously signaled a wait-and-see approach to the 2012 farm law. Speaking to Market to Market in May, Lucas outlined his take on future farm bill legislation.
Leadership changes in the U.S. Senate are less likely to flip between political parties but agriculture committee chairwoman Blanche Lincoln faces a nearly insurmountable electoral battle in Arkansas. The Natural State Democrat finds herself down as much as 20 points in recent polling to Republican Congressman John Boozman. If two-term Senator Lincoln loses on November 2nd, and Democrats retain a majority in the U.S. Senate, Michigan's Debbie Stabenow could be in line to assume the helm of the agriculture committee.
But if Republicans capture the Senate, a familiar southern lawmaker would likely reclaim the chair…Georgia's Saxby Chambliss. Senator Chambliss previously served in the position during the Bush Administration and was a fierce defender of cotton and rice programs.
Regardless of last minute political maneuvering, the cyclical pendulum of electoral midterms is expected to swing hard at incumbents…and particularly Democrats.