Polls closing as voters pit Trump strength, Dems’ resistance

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Voters line up to cast their ballots in Miami. (AFP)
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A first time voter looks up after scanning his ballot at a polling station Lorton, Virginia. (AFP)
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Voters fill out their ballot in Des Moines, Iowa. (AFP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Polls closing as voters pit Trump strength, Dems’ resistance

  • At stake are all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate
  • Both parties admit that they may be in for nasty surprises.

WASHINGTON: Polls were closing across the East Tuesday evening as the energy and outrage of the Democratic resistance faced off against the brute strength of President Donald Trump’s GOP in a fight for control of Congress and statehouses across the nation.
Fundraising, polls and history were not on the president’s side. But two years after an election that proved polls and prognosticators wrong, an air of uncertainty — and stormy weather across parts of the country — clouded the outcome of high-stakes elections from Florida to Alaska and everywhere in between.
Polls across six states closed at 7 p.m. EST, including battlegrounds Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky, and were closing in half the country by 8 p.m. EST.
At least one lower-profile election with presidential implications was decided after the first major wave of polls closed in the East.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders easily won his third term as he considers another bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. Other 2020 prospects on the ballot included Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Anxious Republicans privately expressed confidence in their narrow Senate majority but feared the House was slipping away. The GOP’s grip on high-profile governorships in Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin were at risk as well.
“Everything we have achieved is at stake,” Trump declared in his final day of campaigning.
Long lines and malfunctioning machines marred the first hours of voting in some precincts, including in Georgia, where some voters reported waiting up to three hours to vote in a hotly contested gubernatorial election. More than 40 million Americans had already voted, either by mail or in person, breaking early voting records across 37 states, according to an AP analysis.
Nearly 40 percent of voters cast their ballots to express opposition to the president, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate, while one-in-four said they voted to express support for Trump.
The nationwide survey indicated that nearly two-thirds said Trump was a reason for their vote.
Overall, 6 in 10 voters said the country was headed in the wrong direction, but roughly that same number described the national economy as excellent or good.
Two issues more than any others were on voters’ minds: 25 percent described health care and immigration as the most important issues in 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.
He bet big on a xenophobic closing message, warning of an immigrant “invasion” that promised to spread violent crime and drugs across the nation. Several television networks, including the president’s favorite Fox News Channel, yanked a Trump campaign advertisement off the air on the eve of the election, determining that its portrayal of a murderous immigrant went too far.
The president’s current job approval, set at 40 percent by Gallup, was the lowest at this point of any first-term president in the modern era. Both Barack Obama’s and Bill Clinton’s numbers were 5 points higher, and both suffered major midterm losses of 63 and 54 House seats respectively.
Democrats needed to pick up two dozen seats to seize the House majority and two seats to control the Senate.
All 435 seats in the US House were up for re-election, although fewer than 90 were considered competitive. Some 35 Senate seats were in play, as were almost 40 governorships and the balance of power in virtually every state legislature.
Trump spent Tuesday at the White House, tweeting, making calls, monitoring the races and meeting with his political team.
He and the first lady were to host an evening watch party for family and friends. Among those expected: Vice President Mike Pence and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, an informal adviser to the president.
Democrats, whose very relevance in the Trump era depended on winning at least one chamber of Congress, 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 could derail Trump’s legislative agenda for the next two years should they win control of the House or the Senate. Perhaps more important, they would claim subpoena power to investigate Trump’s personal and professional shortcomings.
Some Democrats have already vowed to force the release of his tax returns. Others have pledged to pursue impeachment, although removal from office is unlikely so long as the GOP controls the Senate or even maintains a healthy minority.
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 a college degree. Democrats are relying more upon women, people of color, young people and college graduates.
Women voted considerably more in favor of their congressional Democratic candidate — with fewer than 4 in 10 voting for the Republican, according to VoteCast, a nationwide survey of more than 113,000 voters and about 20,000 nonvoters — conducted for The Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago.
In suburban areas where key House races will be decided, voters skewed significantly toward Democrats by a nearly 10-point margin.
The demographic divides were coloring the political landscape in different ways.
Democrats were most optimistic about the House, a sprawling battlefield set largely in America’s suburbs where more educated and affluent voters in both parties have soured on Trump’s turbulent presidency, despite the strength of the national economy.
Democrats faced a far more difficult challenge in the Senate, where they were almost exclusively on defense in rural states where Trump remains popular. Democratic Senate incumbents were up for re-election, for example, in North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri — states Trump carried by almost 25 percentage points on average two years ago.
History was working against the president in the Senate: 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.


UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt leaves 10 Downing Street in London on November 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 November 2018
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UK’s Hunt to make first visit to Iran

  • Jeremy Hunt: “The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will visit Iran for the first time on Monday for talks with the Iranian government on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, his office said in a statement.
In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration, and earlier this month the United States restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors.
Hunt’s office said he would meet Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.
“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearised Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.
“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilising activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces.”
Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.
“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.