Donald Trump predicted a “great night” for Republicans on Tuesday, as Joe Biden warned Democrats are facing a “tough” battle in closely watched US midterm elections set to reshape Washington and fire the starting gun on the 2024 presidential election cycle.
Tens of millions of Americans flocked to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the midterms, which will determine which political party controls Congress for the next two years and serve as a referendum on Biden’s presidency so far.
According to the final polling averages, Republicans are expected to win enough seats in the House of Representatives to regain control of the lower chamber of Congress — which they will use to stymie Biden’s agenda and launch investigations into his administration.
But the balance of power in the Senate will depend on the outcome of a handful of races — particularly in Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia — that were neck-and-neck heading into the last stretch of the campaign.
Democrats currently control both chambers of Congress by slim margins. Late on Monday, Biden told reporters at the White House that he remained “optimistic” heading into election day, before adding: “But I’m always optimistic.”
When asked whether Democrats could hold on to the House, Biden replied: “I think it’s going to be tough, but I think we can. I think we’ll win the Senate, and I think the House is tougher.”
Trump, meanwhile, spoke to reporters on Tuesday morning outside his polling station in Palm Beach, Florida, saying: “I think we’re going to have a very great night and it’s exciting.”
Trump has hinted heavily that he wants to run for president in two years’ time, setting up a possible rematch of the 2020 vote, if Biden seeks a second term. The former president told supporters at a rally in Ohio on Monday night that he would make a “very big announcement” next Tuesday November 15. Biden has not yet formally said he is seeking re-election.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 41mn Americans had already cast their ballots by voting early either in person or by mail, pointing to high turnout that could exceed the 122mn people who voted in the 2018 midterm elections.
Elisabeth Reinkordt, 39, an education communications specialist in South Philadelphia, voted for Democrat John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race on Tuesday morning, after a bruising campaign season she described as being a lot to take in.
“It’s sad to think that something that should be a proud and joyful act has now been made to have this culture of fear around it,” she said.
US political strategists say that in a highly polarised environment, the outcome of Tuesday’s elections will depend on which side does a better job of getting its traditional base of voters to show up at the polls in pivotal constituencies.
However, shifts in sentiment among independent and swing voters could also be crucial in the tightest contests, including whether college-educated women in the suburbs will stick with the Democrats, and to what extent Republicans could make gains among Hispanic and black voters.
Four years ago, a backlash against Donald Trump led Democrats to capture a majority in the House, but this year the political winds have been shifting in the opposite direction, amid voter discontent with high inflation, crime and immigration which has favoured Republicans.
Democrats recaptured some ground following the Supreme Court’s overturning of the constitutional right to an abortion, and probes of Trump’s connections to the January 6 2021 attack on the US Capitol and his mishandling of troves of sensitive national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
Yet that rebound stalled over the past month, as Republicans closed ranks behind their candidates, including many of those who embraced and defended Trump, and Democrats struggled to come up with a strong closing message on the economy in the face of the latest discouraging data on consumer prices.
Political spending throughout the 2022 midterms cycle, across both state and federal races, was projected to exceed $16.7bn, according to data released on Thursday by OpenSecrets, as campaigners and their allies scrambled to win over voters.
Democrats have raised more than $1.1bn from grassroots donors this year, more than twice that of Republicans’ grassroots fundraising, according to filings for the parties’ fundraising platforms, WinRed and ActBlue.
However, Republicans have relied heavily on outside spending and mega-donors to propel their candidates in crucial races.
Pro-GOP outside groups, such as super political action committees and hybrid Pacs, have spent nearly $1.1bn on the midterm elections this cycle, about 50 per cent more than pro-Democrat groups have spent.
Additional reporting by Alexandra White in New York