WASHINGTON — Change at the top? Not necessarily.
Whichever party controls the House and Senate after the Nov. 2 election probably will install the same leaders whose policymaking helped bring about the sour economy, nearly double-digit unemployment and deficit spending that has led voters to call for fresh faces.
Different lineups could mean different fates for health care, taxation, government spending and regulation, energy and foreign policy, and President Barack Obama's bid for a second term.
The newly elected, no matter how big their freshman class, will have to wait for power.
Democrats would have to find a new leader to run the Senate if they keep their majority but Harry Reid loses to tea party favorite Sharron Angle in Nevada. Possible successors should Reid lose are third-term Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, an unabashed liberal and experienced vote wrangler, and Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, a scrappy deal-maker.
On the Republican side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky assembled enough votes months ago to retain his position as head of what is sure to be a bigger and feistier GOP caucus.
If Republicans become a House majority, the new speaker is almost certain to be Rep. John Boehner of Ohio. The 60-year-old has been in charge of House Republicans since the last two years of George W. Bush's presidency.
Should the GOP fall short, Republicans may look to self-described "young guns" who include Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the second-ranking Republican; Wisconsin's Paul Ryan, a fiscal conservative who came close to derailing Bush's $700 billion bank bailout; and Kevin McCarthy of California, who after only two years in Congress took charge of recruiting the party's field of House candidates this year.
Should the Republicans fail to win the majority in November, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., probably would keep her post as second in the line of succession to the presidency, even after being vilified by Republicans throughout this election season as the face of the Washington establishment.