Hawke's Bay Today

Democrats take House

Republican­s hold on to Senate at end of bitter campaign

- United States

Democrats yesterday gained control of the House of representa­tives but Republican­s held their Senate majority as voters rendered a mixed verdict in the first nationwide election of Donald Trump’s turbulent presidency.

The Associated Press reported that Democrats picked up at least 23 House seats, putting them within reach of the 218 seats needed to take the House from Republican­s.

The results allowed both parties to claim partial victory, but highlighte­d an extraordin­ary realignmen­t of US voters by race, sex and education. Republican­s maintained their strength in conservati­ve, rural states, while Democrats made inroads across the nation’s suburbs.

With control of Congress, statehouse­s and the President’s agenda at stake, some of the nation’s top elections were too close to call.

Yet the Democrats’ dreams of the Senate majority as part of a “blue wave” were shattered after losses in many of the top Senate battlegrou­nds: Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas. They also suffered a stinging loss in Florida, where Trump-backed Republican Ron DeSantis ended Democrat Andrew Gillum’s bid to become the state’s first African-American governor.

In the broader fight for control in the Trump era, the political and practical stakes yesterday were sky high.

Democrats could derail Trump’s legislativ­e agenda for the next two years with control of the House. And 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 Republican­s control the Senate.

Democrats won nearly all of the seats they needed to claim House control with other competitiv­e contests remaining. Victories in contested races across Florida, New York, Virginia, Pennsylvan­ia and Minnesota gave them cause for optimism.

Trump sought to take credit for retaining the GOP’s Senate majority, even as the party’s foothold in the more competitiv­e House battlefiel­d appeared to be slipping.

“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” Trump tweeted.

History was working against the President in the Senate: 2002 was the only Midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.

Nearly 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 one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.

Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good. Twenty-five per cent described healthcare and immigratio­n as the most important issues in the election.

Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.

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 television networks, including the President’s favourite Fox News Channel, 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.

One of Trump’s most vocal defenders on immigratio­n, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, lost his bid for governor. Kobach had built a national profile as an advocate of tough immigratio­n policies and strict voter photo ID laws. He served as vice-chairman of Trump’s nowdefunct commission on voter fraud.

Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, were laser-focused on healthcare as they predicted victories that would break up the GOP’s monopoly in Washington and state government­s.

Yet Trump’s party will maintain Senate control for the next two years, at least.

In Texas, Senator Ted Cruz staved off a tough challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, whose recordsmas­hing fundraisin­g and celebrity have set off buzz he could be a credible 2020 White House contender.

In Indiana, Trump-backed businessma­n Mike Braun defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly. In Missouri, Josh Hawley knocked off Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. And in Tennessee, Congresswo­man Marsha Blackburn defeated former Governor Phil Bredesen, a top Democratic recruit.

Democratic senators Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin won re-election. And in New Jersey, Democrats re-elected embattled Senator Bob Menendez, who, less than a year ago, stood trial for federal corruption charges. The Justice Department dropped the charges after his trial ended in an hung jury.

The races ushered in a series of firsts, with the House getting its first two Muslim women as well as its first Native American and gay woman with the victory of Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids.

 ?? Photos / AP ?? Voter turnout was high across the country, including in Ohio.
Photos / AP Voter turnout was high across the country, including in Ohio.
 ??  ?? Democratic supporters in Jacksonvil­le, Florida, celebrate as results come in.
Democratic supporters in Jacksonvil­le, Florida, celebrate as results come in.

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