As polls closed one time zone at a time in what politicians on the left and right have called ‘the most important election’ in most Americans’ lives, Democrats drew first blood Tuesday night by knocking off a Republican congresswoman in suburban Virginia and sending a Bill Clinton cabinet member back to Washington.
But the larger prize, a blue-wave handing control of the U.S. Congress to President Donald Trump’s liberal detractors, was still a long way from being wished into reality.
GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock failed to fendoff political newcomer Jennifer Wexton, losing the seat in Congress she has held for just two terms.
Wexton and other Demorcats managed to brand Comstock ‘Trumpstock,’ linking her with parts of the president’s agenda that have grown unpopular in the left-trending suburbs of Washington, D.C.
A Republican has represented voters in Virginia’s affluent 10th Congressional District for 60 of the last 66 years. But the Democrat-heavy base in the suburbs surrounding the ultimate government-run ‘company town’ – Washington, D.C. – has expanded in recent election cycles, devouring previously safe GOP territory year after year.
Democrats got their second win of the night in Florida, where former President Bill Clinton’s Health and Human Services secretary, Donna Shalala, won a House race that was considered a coin flip on Tuesday morning.
But Florida’s statewide races could stretch into weeks-long recounts. Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson was losing to Republican Rick Scott, currently the state’s governor, by just 0.8 per cent, with 85 per cent of voting precincts counted. That contest is shaping up to be the most espensive governor’s race in U.S. history.
Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis led Tallahassee Mayor Andrew by 1 per cent in the race to succeed Scott as governor. Gillum hopes to become the first African-American to hold that job.
Voting in some parts of the U.S. will continue until well after midnight on the east coast in the midterm elections. The results could take days to sort out in some tight races and the impacts will be felt for years.
Tuesday’s crucial contests are a referendum on the first two years of Trump’s presidency and will determine how much – or how little – help he will have in Congress during the rest of his first term.
FIRST BLOOD: Republican Rep. Barbara comstock (right) was bounced from her job by upstart Democrat Jennifer Wexton (left) in Tuesday’s midterm congressional election, the first of what liberals hope is a night full of flips and reversals
Trump faces a referendum on his first two years in office and could end up anywhere from complete victory to total defeat
Florida gubernatorial Democratic candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (left) looked to be losing a historic battle against Republican Ron DeSantis, who is currently a member of Congress
Florida governor and Republican senatorial candidate Rick Scott (right) was leading incumbent Democraitc Sen. Bill Nelson (left) as votes were counted Tuesday night
In exit polling published by ABC News and other outlets, Trump received 44 per cent approval for his job performance as president. Fifty-fity per cent disapproved. That’s actually higher than the marks Trump had received in many national polls during the past six weeks.
A 53-43 majority of voters told pollsters after casting their ballots that they would prefer to see Democrats control the House when the next Congress is seated in January.
Exit polls failed to predict the results of many key elections in 2016, including the presidency, as voters appeared to tell surveyors one thing while doing another.
‘Warning: exit polls are like online dating profiles,’ Robby Mook, who managed Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign, tweeted Tuesday. ‘Things may not be as they appear. And they may break your heart.’
Gallup released a poll Tuesday morning that showed Americans by a 50-44 margin believe Republicans will retain control of both chambers of Congress.
The famed polling organization has put that question to Americans 11 times since 1946. its results have never failed to predict the outcome.
Voters filled in their midterm election ballots on Tuesday at Mockingbird Vally Soccer club in Louisville, Kentucky
Democrat Stacey Abrams of Georgia would be America’s first black female state governor if she defeats Republican Brian Kemp in Tuesday’s election, buoyed by help from Will Ferrll, Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama
Twenty-nine-year-old Democratic nominee for New York’s 14th congressional district Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is poised to win a House seat in a stunning turnaround after unseating a long-term incumbent with an unapologetic message of socialism
Every seat in the House of Representatives is up for grabs on Tuesday, along with 35 of the 100 Senate seats. Voters will also decide on 36 races for state governors.
Among them is a contest pitting Democrat Stacy Abrams against Republican Brian Kemp for Georgia’s governor. Abrams, buoyed by support from Oprah Winfrey and former President Barack Obama, would be the first black female state governor in American history if she wins.
Critical Senate races feature familiar faces like fire-breathing conservative Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, and also new faces like his Democratic opponent Beto O’Rourke.
And New Yorkers could send 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist, to the House of Representatives in a district where Democrats do well.
Republicans aim to hold their majorities in both chambers of Congress. Democrats are trying to take over in what pundits call a ‘blue wave.’ President Trump will watch the results in the White House while the nation he leads considers whether to put a leash on him.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders reminded the press corps after the first polls closed that Trump had spoken at 30 political rallies in the past two months alone,’energiz[ing] a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds.’
The president hopes to continue ‘defying midterm history and protecting the GOP’s majorities,’ she said.
Voters in Midlothian, Virginia waited in a long voting line in the rain outside a polling station located at Robious Middle School
All 435 seats in the House of Representatives are on ballots, with most polls forecasting that Democrats will take control from the Republicans
In the Senate the Democrats are facing an uphill battle because just 35 of the 100 seats are up for election, and they have to defend the majority of those as incumbents
A shift of just 23 House seats would put it in Democrats’ hands and likely install the long-suffering Nancy Pelosi, 78, as speaker.
Most forecasters consider that outcome likely but not guaranteed. If they’re right, control of the chamber woud switch hands for the third time in 12 years. America hasn’t seen that level of fluctuation since World War II.
In the Senate the margin is narrower: A swing of just two seats would cost Republicans their gavel. But the realities of America’s electoral map make it a harder task than flipping the House.
Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 contested Senate seats. Ten of those are in states Trump won by wide margins in 2016.
Of the nine Republican incumbents trying to save their jobs, just four are considered ‘safe.’
The first two winners of the evening were liberals in their own easy-layup elections. Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were both expected to gallop to new six-year terms, and did.
Indiana’s Senate race is one that Trump considers a critical pickup opportunity; he traveled there twice in the past week. Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is a particularly vulnerable incumbent in a state that gave Trump a 19-point victory over Clinton two years ago.
Donnelly sought to position himself as a centrist, having reached Congress by defeating tea party-backed Republican Richard Mourdoch.
Republican businessman Mike Braun has torn into Donnelly at every opportunity, and the president used his Twitter account to follow suit.
Robby Mook, the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential bid, warned Tuesday about putting too much faith in exit polls like the ones that made his boss overconfident two years earlier
Trump appeared Monday in three separate states for rallies, making his final sales pitch in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and sharing the stage briefly with press secretary Sarah huckabee Sanders
Tennessee’s Senate race is a different picture, with Republican Bob Corker’s retirement presenting Democrats with a chance to steal a seat and Republicans putting up a Trump favorite in Rep. Marsha Blackburn.
The president campaigned for Blackburn, who served on his transition team. She had a five-point advantage over her Democratic opponent, former Gov. Phil Bredesen, heading into Tuesday’s election, according to the average calculated by Real Clear Politics.
Early voting among young people is a wildcard, though, since pop star Taylor Swift offered Bredesen her endorsement. Nearly 100,000 young people, a nearly seven-fold increase from the last midterm in 2014, have already voted, according to The Tennessean.
The most expensive Senate race has been a bitter Texas battle between conservative Republican Sen. Ted Cruz Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Cruz has led in the polls for weeks, but O’Rourke gave him enough of a political scare that he campaigned like a man who was afraid he might lose, holding 50 rallies in the past six weeks and bringing in his former rival for the 2016 presidential nomination, Donald Trump.
As for O’Rourke, even if he loses, he wins.
The two-term congressman from the Texas-Mexico border region has exploded onto the national scene with his extensive use of social media and a record-setting $38 million raised in the third quarter, giving him a war chest presidential candidates would envy.
He could easily become a 2020 presidential contender, something he denies being interested in even as Democrats are closely watching.
With Trump as president, the nation’s off-year political contests have taken on the character of the World Series instead of the sleepy minor-league affairs they usually are.
At stake is the future of the populist political movement that sent him to Washington: A win for Republicans would quiet his critics inside the GOP and embolden him for at least two more years of pro-business, ‘America First’ governing that’s hawkish on trade and uncompromising toward illegal immigration.
But a Democrat-led House could cripple his legislative agenda and dring the wheels of government to a halt as his political enemies launch investigations into allegations of election-year collusion with Russia and a growing list of other scandal-ready material.
One closely-watched race is in Texas, where Republican Ted Cruz – who fought Trump for the presidency in 2016 – has been dragged into a close contest with Demorcatic congressman Beto O’Rourke
Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the 2018 Democratic Candidate for Senate in Texas, left his polling place with his family after voting on Tuesday
If the Senate should go ‘blue,’ Trump would lose the practical ability to appoint more federal judges – including Supreme Court nominees – and replacements for cabinet members who are likely to walk away after two years in office.
Should Democrats win control of both chambers of Congress, an impeachment mood would sweep Washington, forcing the White House to play constant defense until 2020.
And that would be happening against a cultural backdrop framed by a series of voter initiatives – single-issue questions forced onto ballots through petitions or other exercises in more direct democracy.
The president hinted on Monday that he senses the possibility of a quiet voter revolt that pollsters can’t measure, similar to the one that sent him to Washington two years ago.
He said at allthree of his final campaign day’s rallies that Republicans might shock the world again no matter what the political press corps predicts.
‘There is something going on, Ohio, that they’re not talking about,’ he said in Cleveland after greeting about 6,000 people in a sea of red hats.
‘There’s an electricity like people have not seen since a date in 2016. November,’ Trump said, adding later that ‘we defied the pundits and the critics. We rejected them.’
In Florida a close contest for the governor’s seat is taking place between Andrew Gillum (left) and Ron DeSantis (right), who is a close ally of Trump
Stacey Abrams is looking to become the first female African American governor in US history in Georgia, where she is taking on Brian Kemp
He also took credit for the resurgence of the midterm elections as a media phenomenon.
‘You know the midterm elections used to be, like, boring, didn’t they?’ he asked his screaming fans. ‘Do you even remember what they were? People say midterms, they say, “What is that? What is it?” right? Now it’s like the hottest thing.’
Trump threw his weight behind efforts to hold the Senate, engaging in a whirlwind series of rallies that saw him stumping in 11 cities over five straight days.
His late efforts might be wasted in portions of 37 states and the District of Columbia, however, where voters can cast their ballots early.
At least 36 million Americans voted before Election Day, many of them before the president engaged at full-throttle.
Trump downplayed that Monday in Ohio, suggesting that it won’t be any more of a factor than it was in 2016.
‘I remember they said, “Well, the people are sort of holding for Tuesday”,’ he said, recalling his victory two years ago. ‘And did you show up on Tuesday!’
The president’s job approval rating ranges from 42 to 51 per cent nationally, and polls show an even wider swing in voters’ party preference going into Tuesday’s contests.
A CNN poll released Monday morning had Democrats leading Republicans by 13 percentage points when voters were asked which party’s candidate they were likely to support in a congressional race.
A Politico poll released at the same time showed that gap was just 3 points, in a survey with a 2-point margin of error.