WASHINGTON - Democrats fought to retake control of the House in a midterm election Tuesday that shaped up as a pivotal referendum on President Donald Trump and the Republican Party's monopoly on power in Washington.
As Election Day unfolded, Democrats were increasingly confident, predicting they would pick up at least the 23 seats needed for a House majority on the strength of voter enthusiasm, robust fundraising and unusually fresh candidates.
The outcome has serious stakes for the president. A Democratic majority in the House would almost certainly bring an onslaught of investigations into Trump's businesses and his administration. Yet a Democratic House could also give Trump a rare chance for bipartisan deal-making as he gears up for re-election.
"The drumbeat you hear across America is people voting," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said as polls opened. Individual races "will be close," she said, but because of the "quality of our candidates" and emphasis on preserving health care, "I feel confident we will win."
Midterm elections are typically difficult for the party in power, and GOP incumbents were on defense in races across the country as control of the House turned into a signature contest of the season.
More women than ever were running, along with military veterans and minorities, many of them motivated by Trump's rise. Yet Democrats tempered expectations for a "blue wave," characterizing the fight for power as a block-by-block slog.
Campaigns unfolded against a backdrop of jarring political imagery, overheated rhetoric and angry debates on immigration, health care and the role of Congress in overseeing the president.
To stem Republican losses, Trump sprinted through mostly white regions of the country, interjecting dark and foreboding warnings about what Democratic power would mean for the nation.
The debate was dominated not by the GOP's $1.5 trillion tax cuts but by Trump's dire prediction of "invasion" from the migrant caravan and what he called the "radical" agenda of speaker-in-waiting Pelosi.
GOP Whip Steve Scalise said the president's rallies were building momentum, and with the economy a selling point, he predicted his party would retain a slim majority.
"In the end, we hold the House because of the strong economy," the Louisiana Republican told The Associated Press on the eve of Election Day.
Health care and immigration were high on voters' minds as they cast ballots, according to a wide-ranging survey of the American electorate conducted by AP.