Americans started voting Tuesday in critical midterm elections that mark the first major voter test of Donald Trump’s controversial presidency, with control of Congress at stake.
The elections are seen as a referendum on Trump’s presidency. About three quarters of the 50 states in the east and centre of the country were already voting as polls began opening at 6am local time for the day-long ballot.
Republicans were keenly aware that losing their majority will hamstring his political agenda over the next two years. Up for grabs are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate, 36 governor posts and seats in state legislatures across the US.
Trump attended three rallies on the final day of campaigning, telling his supporters: “Everything we have achieved is at stake tomorrow.”
Former President Barack Obama—on the campaign trail for the Democratic party—said “the character of our country is on the ballot”. The former president tweeted the vote “might be the most important of our lifetimes”.
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 divisive 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.
“It’s a consequential election,” said Yorgo Koutsogiogasi, 64, who was among 17 people ready to cast ballots at a downtown Chicago polling station when doors opened at 6:00 am.
“Divisiveness in the country is really tearing the country apart,” said the Greek immigrant, a company CEO.At every rally, Trump has vowed to his supporters that they will “win, win, win.” But on Monday, he conceded that the House may slip from his party’s grasp. – AFP and BBC