Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Voting underway as Donald Trump faces litmus test

Voting underway as Donald Trump faces litmus test

Democrats must gain 21 more seats in the 435-member House of Representatives to regain control of the chamber, which is now led by President Donald Trump's Republicans.

On the GOP side, with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin retiring from Congress, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is his likeliest successor as the top Republican leader in the majority or minority. Joe Donnelly in IN and Republican Marsha Blackburn's win in Tennessee made it much more hard for Democrats to make inroads.

The Associated Press called the very first US House race at 6:32pm, when Republican Hal Rogers safely won re-election in Kentucky's fifth congressional district.

But memories of Trump's shock 2016 election win are still fresh and strategists from both parties distrust the polls so no one can say for sure what will happen on what promises to be a long, tense night.

In Virginia's 7th District, a Republican-leaning area near Richmond, Republican Rep. Dave Brat was in a tight race with Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer.

In a last-minute controversy, NBC, Fox News and Facebook on Monday pulled an ad by Trump's campaign that critics have labeled racist.

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey beat Republican challenger Bob Hugin to win a third term.

The first polls have been closing across the USA in one of the most closely watched midterm congressional elections in living memory, which are likely to be seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump's administration.

During an election-eve rally in Cleveland on Monday, President Trump claimed that mid-term elections, which used to be "boring", have now become the "hottest thing" because of him, attributing voter turnout and media attention to his presidency.

"We always knew these races are going to be close", said Rep. Katherine Clark of MA, co-chair of House Democrats' recruitment efforts. One quarter of those casting a House ballot said they did so in part to support him.

Almost 40 per cent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while about 25 per cent said they voted to express support for Trump. His supporters were also very motivated to head to the polls to ensure Trump can continue to make the changes they want for America.

The President planned to have dinner with his family and to watch the results, which could have a profound impact on the rest of his term and could reshape Washington's balance of power, in the residence of the White House. "The President has energized a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country", Sanders said. Early results showed support for proposals to cap the state income tax, require voter ID at the polls, add protections for crime victims and ensure North Carolinians of the right to hunt and fish.

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Carol Harvey, a McLean resident who says she always votes for Democrats, stressed the importance of this year's election, saying that "it's critical, Republicans aren't normal". Do voters in Iowa and other spots on the Obama-Trump map swing back to the Democrats?

In trying to stem Republican losses, Trump made only passing reference to his $1.5 trillion tax cut - the GOP Congress' signature achievement - and instead barnstormed through mostly white regions of the country, interjecting dark and foreboding warnings. His approval rating - 39% in the latest CNN poll - is within the range where the President's party typically suffers heavy losses on Capitol Hill.

Going into election day, the Democrats needed a net gain of 23 seats to take over a majority in the House, and polling indicated that they stood an excellent chance of doing that. While Republicans confront serious headwinds in holding the House, the uniqueness of the contest in each of 435 House districts makes for a wide range in the potential number of seats Democrats may gain.

They paved their path to victory by defeating Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Missouri's Claire McCaskill.

Former vice president Joe Biden, often touted as a possible Democratic candidate to take on Trump in 2020, said he'd be "dumbfounded" not to win the House. In both Senate and House races, Democrats have focused heavily on health care and protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions. Twenty-five percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in the election. Liberal House member Beto O'Rourke's underdog Senate campaign fell short in conservative Texas against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. The survey is separate from the traditional exit polls for the television networks.

Democratic Senate incumbents were up for re-election, for example, in North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri - states Trump carried by nearly 25% on average two years ago. "I think he's preying upon people's fears", said Jay Hutchins, 49, a Democrat voting in Silver Spring, Maryland, said of Trump.

"If the Democrats really believe that this President is controlled by Russian Federation, then why do they say nothing about it?"

"We'll just have to work a little bit differently", he told reporters.

At least one Senate race may not be decided Tuesday.

The campaign will be the most expensive midterm in history, projected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics to exceed US$5 billion.

Other records were also falling.

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