Democrats gain in their quest for House con­trol but the GOP re­tains con­trol in the Se­nate,

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Steve Peo­ples

Democrats were gain­ing sig­nif­i­cant ground in the bat­tle for House con­trol Tues­day night, while Repub­li­cans held onto their ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate as vot­ers weighed in on the first na­tion­wide elec­tion in Don­ald Trump’s tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency.

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

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

The Democrats’ nar­row path to the Se­nate was slammed shut af­ter set­backs in In­di­ana, Ten­nessee, North Dakota and Texas.

Trump’s team im­me­di­ately sought to give him credit for re­tain­ing their nar­row Se­nate ma­jor­ity, even as their foothold in the more com­pet­i­tive House bat­tle­field ap­peared to be slip­ping. “It’s a huge mo­ment and vic­tory for the pres­i­dent,” Press Sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders told re­porters at the White House.

Two is­sues more than any oth­ers were on vot­ers’ minds. 25 per­cent de­scribed health care and im­mi­gra­tion as the most im­por­tant is­sues in the elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to AP VoteCast, a na­tional sur­vey of the elec­torate. Nearly two-thirds said Trump was a rea­son for their vote.

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

The po­lit­i­cal and prac­ti­cal stakes were sky-high.

Democrats could de­rail Trump’s leg­isla­tive agenda for the next two years should they win 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 the GOP con­trols the Se­nate or even main­tains a healthy mi­nor­ity.

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

In Texas, Sen Ted Cruz staved off a tough chal­lenge from Demo­crat Beto O’Rourke, whose record-smash­ing 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. And in Ten­nessee, Con­gress­woman Mar­sha Black­burn de­feated for­mer Gov. Phil Bre­desen, a top Demo­cratic re­cruit.

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