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GOP aims to keep Senate control, aided by Trump-friendly map

AP  |  Washington 

aimed to retain control in Tuesday's voting and renew their role as guardians of Donald Trump's conservative agenda, on a lopsided electoral map that imperiled far more Democratic seats to offset Trump's deeply divisive effect on voters.

Democrats' longshot prospects for capturing a majority were pinned on hopes of their supporters surging to the polls.

Party stalwarts and some independents have been roused by revulsion toward Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and policies and his efforts to dismantle health care protections enacted under Barack Obama, and by the #MeToo movement's fury over sexual harassment.

"I think he's trying to divide this country. I think he's preying upon people's fears," said Jay Hutchins, 49, a Democrat voting in Silver Spring, Maryland, said of Trump.

The Democrats also had history on their side: 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the gained seats.

Yet while command the Senate only narrowly, 51-49, Democrats faced daunting political math: They and their two independent allies were defending 26 of the 35 seats in play.

Around a dozen races from to were seen as coin flips or at least competitive, prompting each side to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. It was widely expected that if the GOP padded its current two-seat majority, it would do so only modestly.

With Democrats considered a good bet to grab House control from Republicans, keeping the Senate was seen as crucial for the GOP's goals of tax and spending cuts, trade, immigration restrictions, curbs on Obama's and judicial nominations. With so much at stake, Trump campaigned in over a dozen states with since Labor Day, visiting some multiple times.

Democrats needed to gain two Senate seats to win a majority, assuming all their incumbents were re-elected, an unlikely outcome. But going into Election Day, their target list was limited: They had a plausible chance of winning GOP-held seats only in Arizona, Nevada, and

The 26 seats Democrats were protecting included 10 in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential race, five of those by an enormous 19 percentage points or more.

In those 10 Trump-won states, Democratic Sen. of seemed at greatest peril of losing. Other Democrats fighting for political survival included Missouri's Claire McCaskill, Indiana's and of Nelson, 76, faced outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who poured over USD50 million of his own fortune into his campaign, the most in the U.S.

In a sign that Trump dominance two years ago isn't necessarily fatal for Democrats, their incumbents were expected to win re-election in six other states that he carried.

Montana Sen. faced the toughest battle of that group, while moderate Joe Manchin, a former and brand name in West Virginia, was increasingly seen as safe in a state Trump took by 42 percentage points.

Trump's racially tinged anti-immigrant appeals could hurt Republican candidates in swing states like and where college-educated voters could be decisive, but his rhetoric could help in deeply conservative areas.

"The 'resistance,' they call it," Richard Milner, 66, a from Norfolk, Virginia, said of Trump's opponents. Milner, who said he backed GOP congressional candidates.

Amid the recent rash of letter bombs and the synagogue massacre, Trump issued alarming and often unfounded warnings about caravans of migrants crossing toward the US, blaming Democrats, without evidence, for the threat he claimed they pose.

said the caravans provided a visual image that helped motivate voters, as did the Senate's stormy confirmation fight over Justice

In battlegrounds where Democrats were thought to have chances to gain seats, first-term Democratic Rep. was in a close contest with Sen. Dean Heller, the only Republican seeking re-election in a state Democrat won in the 2016 Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a darling of progressives from coast to coast, raised record contributions but faced long odds of ousting tea party Sen. in

Democrats also had opportunities because of the retirements of GOP Sens. of and Tennessee's Bob Corker, both leaving after accusing Trump of dishonesty and questioning his competence. Republicans had another pickup opportunity in New Jersey, where Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who saw federal prosecutors drop bribery charges against him in January after a mistrial, faced

Defeated GOP was poised to win a Senate seat from Potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls who seemed certain to win included independent and New York's

However, there was a strong chance Mississippi's special election to complete the unexpired term of retired GOP Sen. would go to a late November runoff. Republicans who dominate the state would probably prevail, but waiting for the outcome could extend the uncertainty about the breakdown and perhaps which side has control.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, November 07 2018. 05:25 IST