The midterm polls have opened in America today for the first time since Donald Trump took office, with majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate hanging in the balance.
Democrats, spearheaded in the final few days by former president Barack Obama, have focussed on healthcare, an issue ranked high on voters’ list of priorities and one the party leadership believes is a Republican weak spot.
On paper, the Democrats should take back the House. They need to flip just 23 seats to secure a majority – more than doable given historical trends and Mr Trump’s low personal approval rating.
Winning back the Senate is considerably harder, despite the Republicans only holding a slim 51-to-49 seat majority.
Three quarters of Senate seats up for re-election this year are held by Democrats, many competing in states Mr Trump won in 2016.
That means the Democrats have to somehow hold most of their current seats and pick off a handful of Republican incumbents if they want to secure control – a tall order.
Turnout is expected to be key, with both sides pushing hard to energise their base in a bid to drive voters to the polls.
The Democrats held a double-digit lead over Republicans in polls tracking enthusiasm earlier in the year, but the gap shrunk markedly after the heated Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation row.
Mr Trump appears to have decided that immigration is the crucial issue that will turn out the coalition of voters that handed him an unlikely victory in the 2016 election.
The US president has framed migrant caravans approaching through Central America as an existential crisis for country, calling it an “invasion” and dispatching more than 5,000 soldiers to the border.
The approach has drawn a push back from some in his party, with Paul Ryan, the top Republican in the House, reportedly urging Mr Trump to focus more on the booming US economy, which has surpassed 3 per cent growth.
Mr Trump has dropped hints that the Democrats could take the House, saying a number of times that there were too many candidates for him to campaign with personally – a possible excuse if things do not go his way.
If the Democrats do get their hands on at least one of the two bodies that make up the US Congress it could have a significant impact on the next two years of Mr Trump’s presidency.
Source: The Telegraph