Amer­i­cans go to the polls

Democrats could de­rail Trump’s agenda if they win con­trol of House

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - WORLD NEWS - STEVE PEO­PLES

WASH­ING­TON — The en­ergy and out­rage of the Demo­cratic re­sis­tance faced off against the brute strength of U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s GOP on Tues­day as vot­ers across Amer­ica de­cided whether Democrats should con­trol at least one cham­ber of Congress for the first time in the Trump era.

Fundrais­ing, polls and his­tory were not on the pres­i­dent’s side. But two years after an elec­tion that proved polls and prog­nos­ti­ca­tors wrong, an air of un­cer­tainty — and stormy weather across parts of the coun­try — clouded the out­come of high-stakes elec­tions from Florida to Alaska and ev­ery­where in be­tween.

Anx­ious Repub­li­cans pri­vately ex­pressed con­fi­dence in their nar­row Se­nate ma­jor­ity but feared the House was slip­ping away. The GOP’s grip on high-pro­file gov­er­nor­ships in Florida, Ge­or­gia and Wis­con­sin were at risk as well.

“Ev­ery­thing we have achieved is at stake,” Trump de­clared in his fi­nal day of cam­paign­ing.

Long lines and mal­func­tion­ing ma­chines marred the first hours of vot­ing in some precincts, in­clud­ing in Ge­or­gia, where some vot­ers re­ported wait­ing up to three hours to vote in a hotly con­tested gu­ber­na­to­rial elec­tion. More than 39 mil­lion Amer­i­cans had al­ready voted, ei­ther by mail or in per­son, break­ing early vot­ing records across 37 states.

Two is­sues more than any oth­ers were on vot­ers’ minds: health care, which has been the Democrats’ over­whelm­ing em­pha­sis, and im­mi­gra­tion, which has been Trump’s fo­cus, ac­cord­ing to AP VoteCast, a sur­vey of the elec­torate.

The na­tion­wide sur­vey also showed a ma­jor­ity of vot­ers con­sid­ered Trump a fac­tor in their votes and thought the coun­try is headed in the wrong di­rec­tion. Still, about two-thirds said eco­nomic con­di­tions were good.

Trump en­cour­aged vot­ers to view the first na­tion­wide elec­tion of his pres­i­dency as a ref­er­en­dum on his lead­er­ship, point­ing proudly to the surg­ing econ­omy at re­cent ral­lies.

He bet big on a xeno­pho­bic clos­ing mes­sage, warn­ing of an im­mi­grant “in­va­sion” that promised to spread vi­o­lent crime and drugs across the na­tion. Sev­eral TV net­works yanked a Trump cam­paign advertisement off the air on the eve of the elec­tion, de­ter­min­ing that its por­trayal of a mur­der­ous im­mi­grant went too far.

The pres­i­dent’s cur­rent job ap­proval, set at 40 per cent by Gallup, was the low­est at this point of any first-term pres­i­dent in the mod­ern era. Both Barack Obama’s and Bill Clin­ton’s num­bers were five points higher, and both suf­fered ma­jor midterm losses of 63 and 54 House seats re­spec­tively.

Democrats needed to pick up two dozen seats to seize the House ma­jor­ity and two seats to con­trol the Se­nate.

All 435 seats in the U.S. House were up for re-elec­tion, al­though fewer than 90 were con­sid­ered com­pet­i­tive. Some 35 Se­nate seats were in play, as were al­most 40 gov­er­nor­ships and the bal­ance of power in vir­tu­ally ev­ery state leg­is­la­ture.

Democrats were laser-fo­cused on health care as they pre­dicted vic­to­ries that would break up the GOP’s monopoly in Wash­ing­ton and state gov­ern­ments.

Jay Hutchins, a 49-year-old Demo­crat who voted in the Wash­ing­ton sub­urb of Sil­ver Spring, Md., was among those dis­sat­is­fied with Trump and the Repub­li­can-led Congress.

“I’m not pleased with Trump’s lead­er­ship at all. I think he’s try­ing to di­vide this coun­try,” said Hutchins, act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of a group that ad­vo­cates on labour is­sues. “I think he’s prey­ing upon peo­ple’s fears. I think we need a pres­i­dent and lead­er­ship that ap­peals to the bet­ter an­gels of folks. I don’t think Trump has done that at all.”

But in Ohio, Judy Jenkins, a 60-year-old Repub­li­can, said she was vot­ing ex­clu­sively for GOP can­di­dates. She said she used to vote for can­di­dates from both ma­jor par­ties, but vowed never to sup­port a Demo­crat be­cause she was so up­set by how new Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh was treated in his con­fir­ma­tion process. She also backs Trump and said Repub­li­cans are mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion on health care.

Repub­li­cans “have ac­tu­ally brought the change,” she said. “That’s why our econ­omy is grow­ing like it is. They may not be per­fect, but who is?”

Democrats could de­rail Trump’s leg­isla­tive agenda should they win con­trol of the House or the Se­nate. Per­haps more im­por­tant, they would claim sub­poena power to in­ves­ti­gate Trump’s per­sonal and pro­fes­sional short­com­ings.

Some Democrats have al­ready vowed to force the re­lease of his tax re­turns. Oth­ers have pledged to pur­sue im­peach­ment, al­though re­moval from of­fice is un­likely so long as the GOP con­trols the Se­nate or even main­tains a healthy mi­nor­ity.

Democrats were most op­ti­mistic about the House, a sprawl­ing bat­tle­field set largely in Amer­ica’s sub­urbs where more ed­u­cated and af­flu­ent vot­ers in both par­ties have soured on Trump’s tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency, de­spite the strength of the na­tional econ­omy. Democrats faced a far more dif­fi­cult chal­lenge in the Se­nate, where they were al­most ex­clu­sively on de­fence in ru­ral states where Trump re­mains pop­u­lar.

RO­GE­LIO V. SO­LIS/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vot­ers fill out their paper bal­lots in Ridge­land, Miss., on Tues­day as the U.S. holds its midterm elec­tions.

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