Americans started voting this Tuesday in critical midterm elections that mark the first major voter test of Donald Trump‘s presidency, with control of Congress at stake.
As polling stations opened at six in the morning on the East Coast, Republicans were keenly aware that losing their majority will hamstring his divisive, nativist political agenda over the next two years.
At stake are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate, 36 governor’s posts and seats in state legislatures across the country.
For almost two years, Trump’s rule-breaking, sometimes chaotic administration has enjoyed a largely free hand from the twin Republican-controlled chambers, but the midterms could finally see his wings clipped.
According to nearly all pollsters, the Democrats have a good chance of winning the House, while the Republicans are likely to retain the Senate.
But with turnout a key unknown factor and pollsters still unsure about the effect of Trump’s maverick style on voters, both parties admit that they may be in for nasty surprises.
After a campaign in which Trump was accused of race-baiting with repeated and unsubstantiated references to an “invasion” of undocumented immigrants bent on rape and murder, left-right divisions in America could not be deeper.
Although not on the ballot, Trump made himself the focus of the entire contest, jetting around the country to hold rallies in three states on Monday alone.
The election is widely seen as a referendum on the first two years of his term.
Trump declared “the Republican agenda is the American dream” and at his final event, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, he called on supporters to seize their “righteous destiny as Americans.” Democrats saw the election in equally historic terms.
Voters will “define the future, not just of Texas, but of this country, not just of this generation but every generation that follows,” said Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Senator Ted Cruz in traditionally deep-Republican Texas.
At every rally, Trump has vowed to his supporters that they will “win, win, win.” But as he touched down in Indiana for the second leg of his final-day tour Monday, even Trump conceded that the House may slip from his party’s grasp.
“We’ll just have to work a little bit differently,” he told reporters when asked how he’d live with a Democrat-controlled lower chamber.