WASHINGTON: Americans voted on Tuesday in an election that is seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s first two years of a four-year term. At stake are all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the Senate. Voters will also elect 36 governors and hundreds of state and local government representatives.
As millions of voters turned out to vote, Democrats claimed that they were 100 per cent sure of reclaiming the House from Mr Trump’s Republicans. However, Republicans are hoping that this “over-emphasis on the Trump factor” can bring out the president’s supporters and give them yet another surprise win, as in 2016 when Mr Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
“Some are calling (this) the biggest referendum on a president in recent memory,” commented CNN in a report on the last-minute campaigns to persuade undecided voters.
“Trump is the dividing force in this election,” noted the USA Today newspaper. “While he isn’t on the ballot, he is at the centre of both the conflict and its consequences.”
President Trump also endorsed this impression, telling voters in a campaign rally that “your vote in 2018 is every bit as important as your vote in 2016,” when they elected him. “That’s why we will be campaigning for every last vote in every part of our great country,” he said.
Former US president Barack Obama, who campaigned across the country for Democrats, warned Americans that in his first two years in office President Trump has de-shaped America. “The character of our country is on the ballot,” Mr Obama said at a rally in Miami.
Most US media reports and straw polls suggested that Democrats had an edge in early voting. Reports from some states showed high turnouts of women and young voters in some states, particularly on the East Coast. This is a good sign for Democrats as both groups tend to vote for them. Another group that came out in large numbers on Tuesday was that of immigrants, who also mostly favour the Democrats.
The most likely scenario, according to The Washington Post, is: “Democrats win the House, while Republicans hold the Senate.”
Since all such predictions were proven wrong in 2016, when Mr Trump won against all odds, no media outlet or opinion survey ruled out a surprise Republican win.
And, as The New York Times pointed out, Mr Trump is counting on his negative campaigning to bring out his supporters.
“Where are the police? Where are the military? Where are ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement? Where are the Border Patrol?” he declared at a rally in a clear attempt to stir anti-immigrant sentiments.
Some political pundits say that the midterm could also decide whether Mr Trump will be a one or two-term president. Although an outsider in 2016, Mr Trump now leads the ultra-right conservatives in the Republican Party.
His victory in 2016 encouraged conservatives across the globe, bringing wins for them in several European countries as well. Liberals hope that a Republican defeat in the midterm could halt this trend.
In the past two years, Mr Trump has enforced several key points of his conservative agenda — scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, a ban on Muslim visitors, undoing health reforms, appointing conservative judges — also because Republicans control both the House and the Senate. He promised to do the rest — taking away the birthright to citizenship, building the Mexico wall — in the remaining two years of his four-year term.
Democrats believe that if they win back Congress on Nov 6, they can prevent Mr Trump from completing his agenda and winning a second term.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018