Democrats were on track to capture control of the House of Representatives on Tuesday night while Republicans held the Senate and were positioned to add to their majority, a result that President Donald Trump quickly sought to portray as an overall victory.
Rural voters broke sharply with their counterparts in the suburban districts and metropolitan areas, as turnout soared in a midterm election that came to serve as a national referendum on the president.
In the states Trump made a priority -- Florida, Georgia, Indiana -- he came away with several marquee victories for Senate and governor. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally running for governor of Florida, defeated Andrew Gillum, who was trying to become the first black leader of the state. Brian Kemp, the Georgia Republican, was ahead of Stacey Abrams in the governor's race there.
Among the major races of the night, Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two moderate Democrats in increasingly conservative states, were decisively defeated thanks to Republican strength in small towns and rural areas.
In Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a conservative Republican, was dominating former Gov. Phil Bredesen in the middle and western parts of the state that were once Democratic strongholds. And Sen. Ted Cruz overwhelmed Beto O'Rourke, the popular liberal congressman, through much of rural Texas.
"Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!" Trump tweeted late Tuesday night.
But in the House, where Republicans had a 23-seat majority, Democrats were projected to capture enough seats to gain control of the chamber. Democrats ejected incumbents in the suburbs of Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Miami and Washington, D.C. -- winning decisively in moderate districts.
"Tomorrow will be a new day in America," Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a victory party in Washington.
White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders minimized Democratic gains.
"Maybe you get a ripple, but I certainly don't think that there's a blue wave," she told reporters, pointing to several early Republican wins.
As for Republicans retaining control of the Senate, she called it "a huge moment and victory for the president."
The results unfolded as an anxious nation watched to see whether voters would reward or reject the GOP in the first nationwide election of Trump's presidency. In the lead-up to the election, Republicans privately expressed confidence in their narrow Senate majority but feared that the House could slip away.
Fundraising, polls and history were not on the president's side.
"Everything we have achieved is at stake," Trump declared in his final day of campaigning.
Early voting tallies suggested record-breaking interest in the election, the most expensive midterm in history. With more than 38 million votes counted as early or absentee before Tuesday morning, 35 states reported early-vote totals that surpassed those in 2014.
Democrats were upbeat about their chances of winning the House after campaigns that emphasized kitchen-table issues and sought to harness opposition to Trump among suburban women and college graduates. The party had entered Tuesday's contests with a historical advantage, since the president's party typically loses more than a dozen seats in his first midterm elections.
Democrats were laser-focused on health care as they predicted victories that would break up the GOP's monopoly in Washington and state governments.
The political and practical stakes were sky-high.
Democrats hoped to derail Trump's legislative agenda for the next two years by winning control of the House or the Senate.
Asked Tuesday if she was 100 percent sure of a Democratic victory in the lower chamber, Pelosi said "Yes, I am."
By winning the House, Democrats would gain a powerful new pedestal to investigate Trump's administration, his personal finances, and the hotels, golf courses and other businesses he still owns. They are also likely to press for details about the 2016 election, asking whether Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government's efforts to sow misinformation and pro-Trump messages.
But, even in victory, Democrats saw the limits of their coalition -- as Republicans snuffed out Democrats' hopes of winning the Senate. Indeed, the GOP seemed likely to increase its majority by flipping key seats.
In other Election Day gains, women were poised to break the current record of 84 serving at the same time in the House.
With ballots still being counted across the country Tuesday night, women won 75 seats and were assured of victory in nine districts where women are the only major-party candidates.
Leading up to the election, Trump encouraged voters to view the first nationwide election of his presidency as a referendum on his leadership, pointing proudly to the surging economy at recent rallies.
In his final campaign swing, Trump repeatedly told 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 Monday in Cleveland.
"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," he said.
In the past few weeks, Trump has proposed revoking birthright citizenship, repeatedly called a migrant caravan headed for the United States from Mexico as an "invasion," and sent more than 7,000 troops to the border to block it from entering the country.
Several television networks, including Fox News Channel, yanked a Trump campaign advertisement off the air on the eve of the election, determining that its portrayal of a murderous migrant went too far.
This hard-line approach to immigration politics in the final stage of the campaign defied conventional wisdom among establishment Republicans, who wished Trump would focus on the good economy and the party's tax cuts. Trump said Monday that he regretted not having a "softer tone" at times, but returned to form hours later by attacking Democrats at campaign rallies.
Trump has appeared sensitive in recent days to the possibility that losing the House would be seen as a repudiation of his presidency, even telling reporters that he has been more focused on the Senate than on the scores of contested congressional districts where he is unpopular. And Trump insisted that he would not take the election results as a reflection on his performance.
Yet in interviews Tuesday, voters in both parties repeatedly agreed that the election was fundamentally about Trump, and that the country was bitterly divided. But they could not agree on whose fault that was.
Debbie Eschbacher said at a polling place in Chesterfield, Mo., that she was sick of what she described as "liberals yelling at people." Jay Kim, on the other hand, said he was sick of Trump "dividing the country."
Trump had no public events scheduled for Tuesday and spent part of the morning on Twitter promoting GOP candidates and criticizing Democrats. He campaigned on Monday in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, states he won in 2016 where Republicans hoped to flip Democratic Senate seats.
Senate races were down to the wire in several states where Democrats were defending seats, including Montana and Florida.
Tuesday's elections also tested 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 older, whiter, more male and less likely to have college degrees. Democrats are relying more upon women, minority groups, young people and college graduates.
In Chapmanville, W.Va., a hardware store worker, Chance Bradley, said he was voting Republican because Trump had made him "feel like an American again." But Carl Blevins, a retired coal miner, voted Democratic and said he did not understand how anybody could support Trump -- or, for that matter, the Republican candidate for Senate there, Patrick Morrisey, who lost to Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.
"I think they put something in the water," Blevins said.
In an op-ed, Vice President Mike Pence said the election was a choice between "results or resistance."
"President Trump and I urge the American people to re-elect Republican majorities to Congress to deliver more results. Imagine where we'll be two years from now," Pence wrote Tuesday in USA Today.
Information for this article was contributed by Elise Viebeck, David A. Fahrenthold, Scott Clement, Dudley Althaus, Robert Moore, Tory Van Oot, Sonam Vashi, Philip Bump, Amy Gardner, Emily Guskin, Paul Kane, Beth Reinhard and Matt Viser of The Washington Post; by Steve Peoples, Eric Tucker, Jill Colvin, Zeke Miller, Kantele Franko, Catherine Lucey, Lisa Mascaro; Jonathan Lemire and Michael Kunzelman of The Associated Press; and by Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns of The New York Times.
A Section on 11/07/2018
Print Headline: Democrats poised to win U.S. House