WASHINGTON --The day of reckoning for American politics has nearly arrived.
There are indications that an
oft-discussed "blue wave" may help Democrats seize control of at least
one chamber of Congress. But two years after an election that proved
polls and prognosticators wrong, nothing is certain on the eve of the
first nationwide elections of the Trump presidency.
"I don't think there's a Democrat in this country that doesn't have a
little angst left over from 2016 deep down," said Stephanie Schriock,
president of EMILY's List, which spent more than ever before - nearly
$60 million in all - to support Democratic women this campaign season.
"Everything matters and everything's at stake," Schriock said.
435 seats in the U.S. House are up for re-election. And 35 Senate seats
are in play, as are almost 40 governorships and the balance of power in
virtually every state legislature.
While he is not on the
ballot, Trump himself has acknowledged that the 2018 midterms, above
all, represent a referendum on his presidency.
win control of the House, as strategists in both parties suggest is
likely, they could derail Trump's legislative agenda for the next two
years. Perhaps more importantly, they would also win subpoena power to
investigate Trump's many personal and professional missteps.
elections will also test the strength of a Trump-era political
realignment defined by evolving divisions among voters by race, gender
and especially education.
Trump's Republican coalition is
increasingly becoming older, whiter, more male and less likely to have a
college degree. Democrats are relying more upon women, people of color,
young people and college graduates.
The political realignment, if there is one, could re-shape U.S. politics for a generation.
five years ago, the Republican National Committee reported that the
GOP's very survival depended upon attracting more minorities and women.
Those voters have increasingly fled Trump's Republican Party, turned off
by his chaotic leadership style and xenophobic rhetoric. Blue-collar
men, however, have embraced the unconventional president.
the RNC report's authors, Ari Fleischer, acknowledged that Republican
leaders never envisioned expanding their ranks with white, working-class
"What it means to be Republican is being rewritten as we
speak," Fleischer said. "Donald Trump has the pen, and his handwriting
isn't always very good."
A nationwide poll released Sunday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal details the depth of the demographic shifts.
led with likely African-American voters (84 percent to 8 percent),
Latinos (57 percent to 29 percent), voters between the ages of 18-34 (57
percent to 34 percent), women (55 percent to 37 percent) and
independents (35 percent to 23 percent).
Among white college-educated women, Democrats enjoy a 28-point advantage: 61 percent to 33 percent.
the other side, Republicans led with voters between the ages of 50 and
64 (52 percent to 43 percent), men (50 percent to 43 percent) and whites
(50 percent to 44 percent). And among white men without college
degrees, Republicans led 65 percent to 30 percent.
to elect a record number of women to Congress. They are also poised to
make history with the number of LGBT candidates and Muslims up and down
Former President Barack Obama seized on the
differences between the parties in a final-days scramble to motivate
voters across the nation.
"One election won't eliminate racism,
sexism or homophobia," Obama said during an appearance in Florida. "It's
not going to happen in one election. But it'll be a start."
has delivered a very different closing argument, railing against Latin
American immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.
walking caravan weeks away, Trump dispatched more than 5,000 troops to
the region. The president also said soldiers would use lethal force
against migrants who throw rocks, before later reversing himself.
his xenophobic rhetoric has been unprecedented for an American
president in the modern era: "Barbed wire used properly can be a
beautiful sight," Trump told voters in Montana.
environment is expected to drive record turnout in some places, but on
the eve of the election, it's far from certain which side will show up
in the greatest numbers.
The outcome is clouded by the dramatically different landscape between the House and Senate.
are most optimistic about the House, a sprawling battlefield extending
from Alaska to Florida. Most top races, however, are set in America's
suburbs where more educated and affluent voters in both parties have
soured on Trump's turbulent presidency, despite the strength of the
Democrats need to pick up two dozen seats to claim the House majority.
former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who personally invested $110
million to help Democrats this year, largely in the House, has seized on
voter education levels in picking target races, according to senior
aide Howard Wolfson.
"In this cycle, it seemed as if there was a
disproportionately negative reaction among highly educated voters to
Trump," he said.
As a result, Bloomberg's team poured money
into otherwise overlooked suburban districts in states like Georgia,
Washington state and Oklahoma because data revealed voters there were
Democrats face a far more difficult challenge in
the Senate, where they are almost exclusively on defense in rural
states where Trump remains popular. Democratic Senate incumbents are up
for re-election, for example, in North Dakota, West Virginia, and
Montana - states Trump carried by 30 percentage points on average two
Democrats need to win two seats to claim the Senate
majority, although most political operatives in both parties expect
Republicans to add to their majority.
While Trump is prepared to
claim victory if his party retains Senate control, at least one
prominent ally fears that losing even one chamber of Congress could be
"If they take back the House, he essentially will
become a lame-duck president, and he won't win re-election," said Amy
Kremer, a tea party activist who leads the group Women for Trump.
"They'll do anything and everything they can to impeach him," she said.
powerful Democratic forces are already pushing for Trump's impeachment,
even if Democratic leaders aren't ready to go that far.
activist Tom Steyer spent roughly $120 million this midterm season. Much
of that has gone to boost turnout among younger voters, although he has
produced a nationwide advertising campaign calling for Trump's
Steyer insisted most Democrats agree.
"We're not some fringe element of the Democratic Party. We are the Democratic Party," he said.
Election Day, both sides are expected to have spent more than $5
billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The flood of
campaign cash, a midterm record, has been overwhelmingly fueled by
energy on the left.
Money aside, Steyer said he and concerned
voters everywhere have invested their hearts and souls into the fight to
punish Trump's party.
"That's what's at stake: my heart and soul, along with everybody else's," he said.