As polls closed in more than half of U.S. states late on Nov. 6, one of the most consequential elections in a generation was still too close to call.
Ballots poured in from key races across the nation in tight races, the outcomes of which will determine the future of President Donald Trump’s ambitious “America First” agenda. As of press time, a final call could not be made. A decision in a close contest could be delayed by days or weeks because of recounts and legal challenges.
Democrats struck first in the battle for the House of Representatives, with Jennifer Wexton ousting two-term incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock in a suburban Virginia district outside Washington to pick up the first of the 23 seats the party needs to gain a House majority, according to data provider DDHQ and U.S. media outlets.
With 62 percent of the electorate reported, Republican Mike Braun was holding a 12 percent lead in the crucial Senate showdown in Indiana with incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, although the race is considered still too close to call.
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 2016 presidential contender, and Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential nominee in 2016, easily won re-election, news networks projected. Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown was projected to hold his seat in Ohio.
Tightly contested Senate races in Florida and West Virginia also were too close to call, as were high-profile races for governor in Ohio, Georgia, and Florida.
With a jam-packed rally schedule and a spirited message to his supporters, Trump made the first election since he captured the White House in 2016 a referendum on his agenda. Democrats, meanwhile, bet the party’s future on a hard left turn, with several candidates openly running as socialists.
While some election forecasts favored Democrats, Rasmussen, the pollster that most accurately predicted Trump’s 2016 victory, had the two parties locked in a statistical tie on a generic ballot. A separate Rasmussen poll suggested a repeat of the 2016 upset delivered by the so-called silent majority.
All 435 seats in the House, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate, and 36 of the 50 state governorships were up for grabs when polls opened.
In the final stretch of the president’s campaign for GOP candidates, Trump crystallized his message as a choice between the liberal “mobs” and the socialist agenda of the left, and the right’s focus on freedom, a roaring economy, secure borders, and jobs. Most Democratic campaigns focused on health care and steered clear of the president.
If Democrats can capture a majority in the House, they could block Trump’s policy agenda and launch congressional investigations into the Trump administration. Ongoing investigations into surveillance abuses unleashed on the Trump campaign would inevitably be shut down.
Democratic control of either chamber would also complicate the approval of the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement and snuff out any chance of securing funds for a wall on the southern border, which was Trump’s signature campaign promise.
A Republican victory in both chambers of Congress would hand Trump a powerful mandate a month after he solidified a conservative majority on the Supreme Court when Senate confirmed his nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.
Ahead of the results, U.S. stocks closed higher, with the benchmark S&P 500 Index ending the day at a two-week high. U.S. Treasury securities prices fell, and the 10-year yield closed at its highest level since 2011.
Problems with voting machines prevented Americans from casting ballots in a dozen states, U.S. rights advocates said, citing complaints about registration problems, faulty equipment, and intimidation they have received throughout early balloting.
But a Department of Homeland Security official said the reports of voting technology failures appeared so far to have had no significant impact in preventing people from voting.
Voter turnout, normally lower when the presidency isn’t at stake, could be the highest for a midterm election in 50 years, experts predicted. About 40 million early votes were likely cast, said Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida who tracks the figures. In the last such congressional elections in 2014, there were 27.5 million early votes.
“I have worked at this poll the last three elections and this is the biggest turnout ever,” said Bev Heidgerken, 67, a volunteer at a polling place in Davenport, Iowa.
Reuters contributed to this report.