WASHINGTON—Democrats will try to win back at least one chamber of Congress. Republicans will try to hold on for dear life.
The U.S. holds its midterm elections on Tuesday. Democrats, buoyed by the intensity of opposition to President Donald Trump among minorities and college-educated white women, are favoured to win back control of the House of Representatives. Republicans are favoured to keep control of the Senate, where they have a chance to add seats in conservative states.
Here are 10 things to keep your eye on:
Wealthy suburbs: Many of the House races where Democrats could oust Republicans are taking place in high-income suburbs, the kinds of places in which polls suggest many educated women are rebelling against Trump. They include Colorado’s Denver-area 6th District, Illinois’s Chicago-area 6th District, Minnesota’s Minneapolis-area 3rd District, Texas’s Houston-area 7th District and Dallas-area 32nd District, Kansas’s Kansas City-area 3rd District, and Michigan’s Detroit-area 11th District.
California cluster: Democrats have a chance to win as many as four seats in California’s upscale Orange County (the state’s 39th, 45th, 48th and 49th districts), a Republican bastion where Hillary Clinton managed to beat Trump in 2016. There is another competitive race in the 25th District in nearby Los Angeles County.
Democratic tightrope-walkers: Five Democratic senators are trying to finesse their way to re-election in states Trump won by 19 points or more, each of them trying to convince voters that they are not hostage to party liberals. Polls suggest West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is in good shape, Montana Sen. Jon Tester is in decent shape, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly are in tight races, and North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp is in trouble.
Republican immigration moderates in Hispanic districts: Republican congressmen in districts with big Hispanic populations — Florida’s Carlos Curbelo, Texas’s Will Hurd, California’s Jeff Denham and David Valadao — have tried to separate themselves from Trump on immigration. Democrats have argued that they are complicit with Trump regardless. Curbelo’s race appears to be particularly close.
Texas Senate race: Beto O’Rourke has drawn the most national attention and most donations of any congressional candidate, partly because of his charisma and partly because of who he’s running against: Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Republican strategists have scoffed at Betomania, noting that Cruz has been consistently ahead in the polls. But high turnout in early voting has given Democrats reason for at least tentative hope, and the party might need this seat if it has any chance of winning the Senate.
Rust Belt: Trump wouldn’t have been president if he hadn’t won Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Republican candidates in all three states appear to be doing poorly, with some of Trump’s white-working-class voters appearing to be returning to their Democratic roots. Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker is at risk of defeat; in Pennsylvania and Michigan, Democratic candidates for governor and Senate appear to be up big.
Florida: The perpetual presidential swing state features three critical contests. The governor race pits Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, an unapologetically liberal Black man, against Rep. Ron DeSantis, an unapologetic Trump devotee. In the Senate race, Republican Gov. Rick Scott will try to take down moderate Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. And in a direct vote, voters will decide whether to give back voting rights to most ex-felons — potentially creating hundreds of thousands of new voters for the elections in 2020 and beyond.
Controversy-plagued Republicans: Republican congressmen Duncan Hunter of California and Chris Collins of New York have both been charged with crimes; both are still favoured to win. So is Iowa Rep. Steve King, who has been dropped by corporate donors over his support for white nationalism. Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, who is facing an ethics investigation in Congress, and Minnesota Rep. Jason Lewis, who made sexist and racist comments as a radio host, are seen to be trailing.
Pioneers: Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams could become the first Black woman elected governor. Colorado Democrat Jared Polis could become the first openly gay man elected governor. New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland and Kansas Democrat Sharice Davids could become the first Native American women in Congress. (Democrats Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota appear near-certain to become the first Muslim women in Congress.)
Ballot measures: Voters in the conservative states of Nebraska, Utah and Idaho get to decide whether to defy their states’ Republican politicians and approve the Medicaid program to give health insurance to tens of thousands more low-income people.
Daniel Dale is the Star’s Washington bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @ddale8