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Voting begins for U.S. midterm elections, control of House at stake

Voting began Tuesday in the U.S. congressional midterm elections in what is widely viewed as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years in office.

With Trump touting the firm U.S. economy and his tough stance on immigration as major campaign issues, the focus will be on whether the Republican Party can maintain its majorities in both chambers of Congress.

Polls suggest Republicans are likely to retain control of the Senate, but the Democratic Party could retake the House of Representatives — a development that, if realized, 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 voters’ attention on issues such as jobs and illegal immigration will prevent Democrats from controlling 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 — will produce higher-than-usual voter turnout and give a boost to Democratic candidates.

Democrats are defending former President Barack Obama’s health care law and calling for raising minimum wages and ensuring gun control, as well as safeguarding the rights of women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Speaking at a rally Monday in Virginia, Obama indirectly criticized Trump’s divisive persona and his hardline policy agenda, such as his derogatory remarks against women and 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,» he said.

In Tuesday’s contests, all 435 seats in the House and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate are up for grabs. Thirty-six states will elect governors as well.

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 87.7 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+

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