Americans troop out to vote in Trump referendum, results from 2300GMT

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Senior American citizens vote in Virginia

Americans headed to the polls on Tuesday for a pivotal midterm election seen as a referendum on the first two years of the volatile presidency of Donald Trump.

The first results from the day’s contests are expected to trickle in after the first polls close around 6:00 pm Eastern time (2300 GMT).

With control of Congress at stake, all eyes are on several dozen close House and Senate races that will decide if Democrats or Republicans control the legislative bodies.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and 36 governorships are up for grabs as Americans in all 50 states cast their ballots.

Democrats need a net gain of 23 seats to take control of the House for the first time since the Tea Party wave of 2010 and the latest polls give them a good chance to do so.

Republicans enjoy a slim 51-49 edge in the Senate and are favored to hang on to their majority since Democrats are defending 26 seats on Tuesday and the Republicans only nine.

But with memories still fresh of Trump’s upset victory of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race much uncertainty remains.

Both parties have pulled out all the stops to drive voters to the polls and Trump embarked on a bruising schedule of election rallies over the past few weeks.

“The midterm elections used to be, like, boring,” Trump said at a raucous rally Monday in Cleveland, Ohio. “Now it’s like the hottest thing.”

Early voting totals would appear to support this.

According to Michael McDonald of the US Elections Project, 38.4 million Americans cast their ballots early compared with 27.4 million in the 2014 midterm election.

Voting in Miami, Eloisa Alvarez said this election was “super important.”

“I think, like the TV stations have been saying, it’s a referendum on the Trump presidency,” Alvarez said.

Casting his ballot in Chicago, James Gerlock, 27, a Republican, said he wanted to see continued economic growth under Trump.

“I am extremely happy with the economy,” Gerlock said. “I just love the deregulation and I just want to keep everything moving, because I’m loving it.”

Trump has boasted about the economy and hammered away at illegal immigration in the closing days of the campaign as he seeks to hold onto a majority in Congress and push his legislative agenda.
He accused Democrats on Monday of seeking to make America “a giant sanctuary city for drug dealers, predators and bloodthirsty MS-13 killers.”

Democrats have denounced Trump for what they called fear-mongering and decried his deployment of active duty troops to the southern border with Mexico as a “political stunt.”

Beto O’Rourke, a Democratic candidate in Texas seeking to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz, said the state is one of “immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees.”

“This is our source of strength,” O’Rourke said as he cast his ballot in El Paso. “No one from outside can stir paranoia or fear that can change that.”

The O’Rourke-Cruz race is one of a half-dozen Senate contests that are being closely watched to determine control of the chamber.

Other tight Senate races are in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Hillary Clinton urged her 23.6 million followers on Twitter to get out and vote.

“For the past two years, we’ve watched this administration attack and undermine our democratic institutions and values,” Clinton said. “Today, we say enough.”

“But we won’t just vote against radicalism, bigotry and corruption today,” she said. “We’ll vote for fantastic candidates all over the country — including a historic number of women — who want to raise wages, fight for justice, and help more people get health care.”

One such race involving a woman is seen as a potential bellwether for how the day may go.

Democrat Amy McGrath, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot, is running neck-and-neck against Republican Andy Barr in a House race in Kentucky, a state Trump won by 30 points.

Trump has vowed to his supporters at every rally they will “win, win, win.”

But as he visited Indiana on Monday he conceded the House may slip from his party’s grasp.

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