Midterm election results due following volatile campaign

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

A sharply divided US electorate voted Tuesday to elect a new Congress and to render a midterm verdict on President Donald Trump, in a vote that could shift the balance of power in Washington and alter the next two years of Trump's presidency.

From New York to California and from Missouri to Georgia there were long lines from early morning at polling stations as voters finally got their say, following a heated, often tense campaign.

"Fox can now project that Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, dealing a major setback to President Trump's legislative agenda and giving fresh hope to liberals who want to investigate and perhaps even impeach the president", the network's congressional reporter Chad Pergram wrote on Twitter.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin won a hotly contested race in conservative West Virginia, and Marsha Blackburn held a Senate seat for Republicans. Nevada could be more important, because Dean Heller is the most vulnerable Senate GOP incumbent in the nation, and Democrats probably need to win his seat to seize the majority.

With memories still fresh from 2016, when Trump astonished experts by defeating the heavily favoured Hillary Clinton, pollsters are being cautious. Ballot counting could drag in tight races, leaving some races undecided long after Election Day. "Although the exact size of the Democratic majority is not yet clear, Democrats will soon have to decide whether to restore Nancy Pelosi to her old job as Speaker of the House", adds the forecast.

Trump was watching the results roll in from the White House, where he spent the day holed up with friends and family. Democratic Senate incumbents are up for re-election, for example, in North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri - states Trump carried by nearly 25 percentage points on average two years ago.

Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y., left, speaks to the media after voting in Camillus, N.Y., November 6, 2018. This time, they're sitting up.

Kondik noted that in the 29 congressional midterm elections held since 1900, the president's party lost House seats in all but three - 1934, 1998 and 2002.

And on the streets, there was a palpable buzz. And I think that some of the more radical leftist members of the House on the Democratic side are going to become committee chairs.

Voter turnout could be the highest for a midterm election in 50 years, experts predicted.

Trump encouraged voters to view the first nationwide election of his presidency as a referendum on his leadership. "Now it's like the hottest thing".

Tuesday's elections will also test the strength of a Trump-era political realignment defined by evolving divisions among voters by race, gender and especially education. In the final stretch, Trump hardened his rhetoric on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed to the border with Mexico and condemnations of what he called US liberal "mobs". "I just love the deregulation and I just want to keep everything moving, because I'm loving it".

He claimed Monday that Democrats wanted to make America "a giant sanctuary city for drug dealers, predators, and bloodthirsty MS-13 killers".

"The midterm history is pretty stark in that the president's party usually loses ground in the midterms, and it is usually a question of how much ground they lose", said University of Virginia analyst Kyle Kondik.

At Trump's pre-election rallies, large crowds have consistently cheered his rhetoric about strengthening the southern border, chanting "build the wall!" While the Republican president is not on the ballot, the campaign has been indeed largely about him, with Democrats missing no opportunity to tear into the administration's immigration policies, branding the president racist and even comparing him to Osama bin Laden.

Breaking the super majority in just one chamber would change the power dynamic in Raleigh.

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