Voters headed to the polls Tuesday to determine the balance of power in Washington and across the country in a midterm election that has been set up by both parties as a referendum on President Trump’s first two years in office.
As voters braved long lines and bad weather to cast their ballots, state and local candidates, party representatives and activists canvassed battleground states, looking to woo any remaining undecided voters.
Historical trends and recent polls suggest the Republicans could lose the House, creating an obstacle to Mr. Trump’s agenda two years into his administration. Democrats need to flip 23 seats to gain control. In the Senate, the GOP is expected to retain or even increase their slender 51-49 majority, according to recent polls.
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“It’s all fragile,” Mr. Trump said in a town-hall phone call for voters on Monday. “It can be undone and changed by the Democrats if they get in.”
The president, who is spending Election Day at the White House, has been his party’s highest-profile campaigner even though he is not on the ballot, hosting a string of boisterous rallies, where campaign officials toss T-shirts and other gifts into the crowd, and supporters wave signs bearing political slogans and catchphrases that have become part of the Trump rally repertoire, including “Build the Wall,” “Jobs Not Mobs,” and “Drain the Swamp.”
Across the country, people interviewed by The Wall Street Journal said key issues driving them to vote this year include health care, jobs and immigration.
Florida once again stands as a bellwether, as voters choose a new governor and cast ballots in key Senate and House races. Mr. Trump has made several trips to the Sunshine State hoping to bolster Republicans and taking particular aim at gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, who got a visit from former President Obama last week.
From the moment polls opened at 7 a.m., a steady stream of voters arrived at the Aquilina C. Howell Center in Tallahassee. They were a diverse demographic mix—black and white, young and old.
Not Your Usual Midterm Elections
A polarized citizenry casts votes in what is considered a referendum on the Trump presidency
Harold Ford, a 76-year-old African-American retired counselor, said he voted for Mr. Gillum. “He’s not afraid to say he’s liberal,” said Mr. Ford, a registered Democrat. But “he’s not penned in by his politics. He will reach across the aisle to get things done.”
Other voters in Florida had mixed feelings. Neil McAdorey, 54, is a lacrosse coach at Parkland High School in Florida, where a gunman opened fire on students in February, killing 17 people. Mr. McAdorey said he traditionally leans Republican, and voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. He declined to say whom he favored this year but lamented the country’s increased political polarization.
“We need to bring back what was great about America, which was that we were united,” he said. “We haven’t been strongly united in the last year and a half and really even before that.”
And despite low unemployment and an uptick in growth, Mr. McAdorey said the economy also weighs heavily into his thinking. “I have two sons who are entering the workforce and I am very concerned about the opportunities available for them and concerned about jobs,” he said.
In Ohio, another battleground state Mr. Trump visited Monday in his final campaign swing, there is a heated governor’s race after 2016 GOP presidential candidate John Kasich is leaving due to term limits. Republican Mike DeWine faces Democrat Richard Cordray in the race to follow Mr. Kasich.
Brian McBurney, 61, said he traditionally votes Democratic in his hometown of Massillon, Ohio, but has grown more conservative with age—motivated by issues including tax cuts, health care and immigration. He said he plans to vote Tuesday for Mr. DeWine and Republican incumbent Rep. Bob Gibbs in Ohio’s Seventh Congressional District.
“I think we’re better off” with Mr. Trump as president,” Mr. McBurney said. “I don’t agree with everything he does, but I think we’re better off with him than we would have been with (Hillary) Clinton.”
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Other contests to watch include races in Indiana and Kentucky, the states where the first returns are expected at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. The governor’s race in Georgia between progressive former state lawmaker Stacey Abrams and Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican, is one of the most closely followed in the country. Ms. Abrams could become the nation’s first black female governor.
Voters in Georgia faced severe weather Tuesday morning, as powerful thunderstorms, accompanied by strong wind gusts and possibly tornadoes, moved down through much of the state. Despite the rough weather, some polling stations in the Atlanta area reported long lines by early morning.
Georgia was part of a large swath of the South and East contending with bad weather. Steady rain fell Tuesday morning across Virginia and Pennsylvania, home to several key congressional battles, as well as New York, and was expected to intensify, possibly affecting turnout.
In Texas, Republican Reps. Pete Sessions in a district outside Dallas and John Culberson of Houston are both seeking to fend off Democrats in close races. A defeat of Rep. Will Hurd, who is facing Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones, would signal a difficult night for Republicans.
Texas also features the showdown between former GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Mr. O’Rourke has benefited from record fundraising but remains behind in polls. No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since 1994.
Suzanne Acevedo, a Trump supporter from the Houston suburbs, believes that Republican winning streak isn’t likely to end Tuesday. “Maybe in the future, but I don’t think right now,” she said. “I think we’re still pretty conservative here.”
“Cruz and Trump are right for that,” she said. “Beto, not so much.”
Polls close in the majority of states by 9 p.m. Eastern Time, with mountain and West Coast states wrapping up later.
The late slate includes Alaska, where a combative gubernatorial race is on after Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, suspended his re-election bid less than three weeks before the election.
The move came three days after the sudden resignation of Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott over what Mr. Walker described as an inappropriate overture toward a woman. The three-way governor’s race is leaning in favor of Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy over Democrat Mark Begich but in the recent scandal’s wake, the outcome is hard to call.
Alaska’s polls close at midnight Eastern time.
—Arian Campo-Flores and Cameron McWhirter contributed to this article.
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