Democrats gain in House; path to Se­nate nar­row

The Star Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By STEVE PEO­PLES

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Democrats were gain­ing ground in a district-by-district battle for con­trol of the House Tues­day night, while set­backs in In­di­ana and Ten­nessee squeezed their al­ready nar­row path to a Se­nate ma­jor­ity.

With con­trol of Congress, state­houses and Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s agenda at stake, many of the na­tion’s top elec­tions were too close to call. Democrats won at least six of the roughly two dozen seats they needed to claim House con­trol with dozens ad­di­tional com­pet­i­tive con­tests re­main­ing. Vic­to­ries in con­tested House races across Florida, New York, Vir­ginia, Penn­syl­va­nia and Min­nesota gave them cause for op­ti­mism.

The Democrats’ path to the Se­nate was in­creas­ingly nar­row, how­ever.

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.

The mixed re­sults un­folded as an anx­ious na­tion watched to see whether vot­ers would re­ward or re­ject the GOP in the first na­tion­wide elec­tion of Trump’s tur­bu­lent pres­i­dency. In the leadup to the elec­tion, Repub­li­cans pri­vately ex­pressed con­fi­dence in

their nar­row Se­nate ma­jor­ity but feared the House could slip away. The GOP’s grip on high-pro­file gov­er­nor­ships in Florida, Ge­or­gia and Wis­con­sin were at risk as well.

Fundrais­ing, polls and his­tory were not on the pres­i­dent’s side.

“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 40 mil­lion Amer­i­cans had al­ready voted, ei­ther by mail or in per­son, break­ing early vot­ing records across 37 states, ac­cord­ing to an AP anal­y­sis.

Nearly 40 per­cent 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.

The na­tion­wide sur­vey in­di­cated that nearly twothirds said Trump was a rea­son for their vote.

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.

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.

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 fa­vorite 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.

The pres­i­dent’s cur­rent job ap­proval, set at 40 per­cent 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 5 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.

Demo­cratic Sens. Joe Manchin in West Vir­ginia and Tammy Bald­win in Wis­con­sin won re-elec­tion. And in New Jersey, Democrats re­elected embattled Sen. 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.

Democrats’ per­for­mance in the House bat­tle­field was mixed.

In Vir­ginia, po­lit­i­cal new­comer Jen­nifer Wex­ton de­feated two-term GOP Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock. The Repub­li­can in­cum­bent had been branded Bar­bara “Trump­stock” by Democrats in a race that pointed to Trump’s un­pop­u­lar­ity among col­lege-ed­u­cated women in the sub­urbs.

In south Florida, for­mer Health and Hu­man Ser­vices Sec­re­tary Donna Sha­lala de­feated Repub­li­can Maria Elvira Salazar.

Democrats failed to de­feat a vul­ner­a­ble in­cum­bent in Ken­tucky, where Repub­li­can Rep. Andy Barr won over for­mer Marine fighter pi­lot Amy McGrath.

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.

Mean­while, sev­eral 2020 pres­i­den­tial prospects eas­ily won re-elec­tion, in­clud­ing Sens. Bernie San­ders of Ver­mont, El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, Sher­rod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand of New York and New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo.

Trump spent the day at the White House, tweet­ing, mak­ing calls, mon­i­tor­ing the races and meet­ing with his po­lit­i­cal team.

He and the first lady were to host an evening watch party for fam­ily and friends. Among those ex­pected: Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, an in­for­mal ad­viser to the pres­i­dent.

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 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.

Tues­day’s elec­tions also tested the strength of a Trump-era po­lit­i­cal realign­ment de­fined by evolv­ing di­vi­sions among vot­ers by race, gen­der, and es­pe­cially ed­u­ca­tion.

Trump’s Repub­li­can coali­tion is in­creas­ingly older, whiter, more male and less likely to have a col­lege de­gree. Democrats are re­ly­ing more upon women, peo­ple of color, young peo­ple and col­lege grad­u­ates.

Women voted con­sid­er­ably more in fa­vor of their con­gres­sional Demo­cratic can­di­date — with fewer than 4 in 10 vot­ing for the Repub­li­can, ac­cord­ing to VoteCast, a na­tion­wide sur vey of more than 113,000 vot­ers and about 20,000 non­vot­ers — con­ducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the Univer­sity of Chicago.

AP PHOTO/ALEX BRAN­DON

Demo­crat Jen­nifer Wex­ton speaks at her elec­tion night party after de­feat­ing Rep. Bar­bara Com­stock, R-Va., Tues­day, Nov. 6, in Dulles, Va.

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