Monday 19 November 2018

Trump ramps up divisive rhetoric as Democrats expect they'll win House

Americans go to the polls for midterm elections many were treating as referendum on president

The thin red, white and blue line: People queue up to vote in the US midterm elections at Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
The thin red, white and blue line: People queue up to vote in the US midterm elections at Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Ben Riley-Smith

A pivotal midterm election drew US voters to the polls nationwide yesterday to decide which party should run the House and Senate for the rest of President Donald Trump's hitherto chaotic and divisive first term.

As key races remained tight around the country, Democrats were upbeat about their chance of winning the House after campaigns that emphasised kitchen-table issues and sought to harness opposition to Mr Trump among suburban women and college graduates.

Republicans, who were optimistic about keeping their majority in the Senate, told voters that Democrats would block Mr Trump's agenda while allowing undocumented immigrants and liberal "mobs" to overtake their communities.

As the first national election since Mr Trump's presidential upset in 2016, the midterms gave Democrats an opportunity to capitalise on his low 40pc approval rating, a restive national mood and frustration with one-party leadership in Washington under the GOP.

Former president Barack Obama and other prominent Democrats joined candidates on the campaign trail.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was upbeat about the Democrats' chance of winning the House. "Yes, I am," she said when asked by reporters at a briefing if she was 100pc sure that it will happen. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee later said its volunteers had knocked on 26 million doors and made 30 million calls.

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledged this week that, while he believes the GOP will keep its House majority, the president's party typically loses seats in the first midterm election.

Mr Trump spent the final weeks of the campaign telling supporters that Democratic victories would threaten their safety and stability.

"They want America to be a giant sanctuary city for drug dealers, predators and blood thirsty MS-13 killers," he said at a rally in Cleveland on Monday. "There's only one way to end this lawless assault on our dignity, our sovereignty, and on our borders, and that's by voting Republican tomorrow."

In the past few weeks, Mr Trump has proposed revoking birthright citizenship, repeatedly called a migrant caravan headed for the United States from Mexico an "invasion", sent more than 7,000 troops to the border to block it from entering the country, and released a campaign ad that major television networks deemed too racist to air.

This hard-line approach to immigration politics in the final stage of the campaign defied conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans, who wished Mr Trump would focus on the good economy and the party's tax cuts.

Mr Trump had no public events scheduled for yesterday and spent part of the morning on Twitter promoting GOP candidates and criticising Democrats. By noon, polls were open in every state, including Hawaii and Alaska. Some results were expected by this morning, with other counts expected to take longer.

In Snellville, a rural town in northern Georgia, people said that the line to vote at Annistown Elementary School was hours long because of problems with voting machines.

Takeya Sneeze, a 35-year-old African-American woman, said poll workers were "pumping provisional ballots like crack dealers in the '80s".

"This was voter suppression at its finest," she said.

Political observers had a close eye on Georgia, where Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams was running to become the country's first black female governor, and Republican Karen Handel's race was expected to serve as a bellwether for the direction of the House.

Mr Trump is expected to wield the axe in the wake of the midterms, with figures close to the president predicting that cabinet members will be forced out.

The US president did not reject suggestions he would reshuffle his administration when talking to reporters earlier this week, saying pointedly: "For the most part, I love my cabinet."

Another shake-up would likely further consolidate power under Mr Trump, removing moderating forces who at times have urged caution over policy, much to the president's frustration.

It would also once again push up the turnover figures for Mr Trump's White House, already one of the highest for a modern-day president. (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News