Americans cast their ballots Tuesday in midterm elections that could upend Republican control of the House of Representatives, with the nationwide contests widely viewed as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years in office.
As vote-counting began, the focus is on whether the Republican Party can maintain its majorities in both chambers of Congress, a result that would likely bolster Trump’s bid for re-election in the 2020 presidential election.
Polls suggest Republicans are likely to retain control of the Senate, but the Democratic Party could retake the House of Representatives — a development that would allow it to block Trump’s legislative agenda and launch investigations into the administration.
Trump has been underscoring his signature issues such as strong border security, tax cuts and deregulation. The GOP hopes its efforts to focus voter attention on the firm economy, low unemployment rates and illegal immigration will prevent Democrats from gaining control of the lower chamber.
«The key is you have to go out to vote because in a sense I am on the ticket,» Trump said at a rally Monday in Ohio. «A vote for Democrats is a vote to bring this economic boom crashing to a sudden halt. The Democrat agenda is a socialist nightmare for our country.»
Democrats hope that discontent with Trump — whose approval rate stands at 40 percent versus a disapproval rate of 54 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll — produced higher-than-usual voter turnout and gave a boost to Democratic candidates.
As major policy issues, Democrats are defending former President Barack Obama’s health care law and calling for measures to raise minimum wages, ensure gun control and safeguard the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Speaking at a rally Monday in Virginia, Obama indirectly criticized Trump’s hardline agenda and divisive persona, including his derogatory remarks about women and his anti-immigration rhetoric.
«What kind of politics we expect is on the ballot. How we conduct ourselves in public is on the ballot. How we treat other people is on the ballot,» Obama said. «But most importantly, the character of this country’s on the ballot.»
In Tuesday’s contests, all 435 seats in the House and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for grabs. Thirty-six states were to elect governors as well.
Reflecting the high level of interest in Tuesday’s elections, nearly 40 million voters cast their ballots ahead of Election Day, setting the stage for much-higher-than-usual turnout for a midterm, according to Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks voter turnout.
According to a new national poll jointly conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, registered voters prefer Democratic candidates for the House over GOP contenders by 50 percent to 43 percent. But the margin was smaller than the 11 points marked in October.
Election forecaster FiveThirtyEight gives Democrats seven chances in eight, or a possibility of 87.9 percent, to win back the House.
Presidents with approval ratings as low as Trump’s have generally suffered significant losses in midterm elections. But just as in his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election, Trump has shown historical statistical benchmarks do not always apply to him.
All — Kyodo News+