Democrats gained control of the House, while Republicans kept a majority in the Senate
Play Video: Pelosi says a Democratic House will serve as a check on Trump.
Republican loss of House to dramatically alter Trump's tenure
Midterm vote sets stage for 2020 battle for presidency
By John McCormick and Mark Niquette
Petroleumworld 11 07 2018
Democrats are poised to reclaim the U.S. House, fueled by voter anger and discontent with President Donald Trump to a victory that would dramatically alter his next two years in office and make a deeply divided nation even more difficult to govern.
Republicans, meanwhile, retained control of the Senate after GOP candidates unseated incumbent Democrats in Indiana and North Dakota and won an open seat in Tennessee. That will give Trump a partial claim of victory and allow him to continue his drive to reshape the federal courts.
Democrats have won at least 17 Republican-held districts, a significant down payment on the net gain of 23 seats they need to win the House. It would be the first time the party has controlled the House since 2010.
Democrats were riding to victory Tuesday with strong support from women turned off by Trump's bullying style and among suburban voters with higher incomes and education levels. The party defeated Republicans from the Northeast to the South and across the Midwest.
Trump would be left without congressional support to move his agenda forward under a Democratic House. The party has pledged to check the president's power and start a slew of investigations on matters including his tax returns, Russian involvement in the 2016 election and actions by his administration.
Democratic victories included the defeat of 11-term Texas Representative Pete Session, the chairman of the Rules Committee, by former professional football player Colin Allred in a Dallas-area district. In suburban Chicago, Republican Representative Peter Roskam, a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul, was defeated by Democrat Sean Casten.
Both sides agreed before the election, at least privately, that Republicans were strongly favored to keep the Senate, where the battlefield was highly favorable to them. Victories by GOP challenger Mike Braun over Senator Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Republican Marsha Blackburn's win in Tennessee cut off any small chance Democrats had to make gains, as did the loss by Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.
In one of the most closely watched races, incumbent Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz fended off a well-funded, long-shot bid by Democrat Beto O'Rourke.
Democrats Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin won their Senate re-election bids, both states Trump won in 2016. In Florida's Senate race, Democrat Bill Nelson was in a tight contest with Republican Rick Scott, the state's governor.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey beat Republican challenger Bob Hugin to win a third term, after the incumbent had been reprimanded by a Senate ethics panel after corruption charges were dismissed following a mistrial.
In one of the first key House races to be called, Democrat Jennifer Wexton scored a victory for her party by defeating incumbent GOP Representative Barbara Comstock in a suburban Virginia district that was considered a bellwether by both parties.
In Virginia's 7th District, a Republican-leaning area near Richmond, Republican Representative Dave Brat was trailing Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer.
Voters “rejected the politics of hate, the politics of division and the politics of ideology,” Spanberger told supporters Tuesday night.
Democrats picked off two Republican House seats in Florida, including one held by Representative Carlos Curbelo. He was defeated by Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell. The race was considered a toss-up.
"This was a difficult campaign," Curbelo told reporters in Miami. "This country, our politics are in a very bad place."
In Florida's 27th district, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala won the seat left open by the retirement of Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a popular moderate Republican.
But in some other tossup races, the GOP managed to hold on. Republican incumbent Andy Barr fended off a strong challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, a Naval Academy graduate and the first female Marine to pilot an F/A-18 Hornet in combat, in Kentucky's 6th Congressional district. She finished about 3 percentage points behind the incumbent in a Lexington-area district Trump won by 15 percentage points in 2016.
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Democrats had expressed confidence in recent days that they'd win the House. “When Democrats win -- and we will win tonight -- we will have a Congress that is open, transparent,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who would like to become the next speaker, told an audience Tuesday evening in Washington.
Trump's polarizing impact on the country has driven unusually high interest in the election, the first major political test of his presidency and one that will provide Democrats with clues to the strategy they'll need to challenge him in 2020. The flood of political donations from interest groups and individuals will make it the most expensive midterm ever, and early signs suggest voter turnout could be the highest in half a century.
While the occupant of the White House is typically central to midterm elections, Trump has worked especially hard to make this one about him. Voters agree. Two-thirds of those casting ballots said their vote was about Trump, according to preliminary exit polls posted by CNN. Also, more said they showed up at the polls to express opposition than did those who said they were casting a ballot to support him.
Preliminary exit poll results reported by ABC News showed that 18- to 29-year-olds accounted for 13 percent of voters nationally, up from 11 percent in 2014. About 15 percent said that this was the first time they'd voted in a midterm, according to CNN, compared to about 10 percent who said they were first-time voters in the 2016 election. That could help Democrats because younger voters tend to lean their way.
After a hectic week of campaigning, Trump spent Tuesday at the White House awaiting exit polls and final results. He was active on Twitter throughout much of the day, blasting out endorsements for Republican candidates and weighing in on the balloting.
“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” he said in a tweet late Tuesday.
About four in 10 voters choose health care as the most important issue facing the country, and seven in 10 say the nation's health-care system needs major changes, the exit polling shows. About two in 10 each choose the economy and immigration as their top issue, and just one in 10 say it's gun policy.
Fifty-eight percent of voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction, compared with 41 percent who said it is on the right track, according to a nationwide survey conducted in all 50 states for the Associated Press and Fox News. The survey is separate from the traditional exit polls for the television networks.
Trump and Republicans appeared to have the economy on their side heading into the election: Unemployment in October held at a 48-year low of 3.7 percent.
The president's strategy of emphasizing divisive issues such as immigration appeared to backfire on Republican candidates in suburban swing districts that determined control of the House. It may have been effective, however, in largely rural states where he remains popular and where the closest Senate races played out.
The campaign will be the most expensive midterm in history, projected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics to exceed $5 billion. Other records were also falling. At least 255 women were on the ballot as major party congressional candidates. The total number of women serving simultaneously may exceed 100 for the first time.
— With assistance by Nick Wadhams, Anna Edgerton, Jennifer Epstein, Laura Davison, Tiffany Stecker, and Gregory Giroux
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