Washington, Nov. 5 (Reuters): US voters went to the polls today to decide who will control Congress, with President George W. Bush’s Republicans pushing to retake the Senate and expand their majority in the House of Representatives.
Voter turnout — the key component of this election — appeared high as polls opened on the East Coast. Turnout is typically low for US mid-term elections like this one. In New York City, polling places were already busy at 7 am (1200 GMT), as voters cast ballots before heading for work. “Democratic is who I vote on the economy; if it was foreign policy, Republican,” New York voter Jim Fields said.
Said another voter, Linda Ketchum: “The economy of course is important too, but mainly I care about what is going to happen in Iraq and what is happening with al Qaida.” In Chevy Chase, Maryland, in the congressional district hotly contested by incumbent Republican Rep. Connie Morella and Democrat Chris Van Hollen, early turnout was extraordinarily high for a mid-term election, one election official said, with the estimated waiting time to vote 30 minutes or more.
All 435 House seats, 34 of 100 Senate seats and 36 state governorships were at stake today, with Republicans holding a six-seat edge in the House and Democrats controlling the Senate by one shaky seat.
After a campaign that shattered spending records but is unlikely to produce broad change, less than 10 Senate races and a few dozen House races are expected to determine which party holds power in Congress and will be in charge of considering Bush’s legislative agenda and judicial nominees. Bush, who hopes to become the third President in a century to gain House seats in a mid-term election after Franklin Roosevelt in 1934 and Bill Clinton in 1998, spent the night on his Texas ranch after a one-day, four-state campaign swing.
“Find good Texans and get them to vote,” he told a rally in Dallas last night, where Republican state attorney general John Cornyn’s lead in the Senate race against former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk has narrowed in some recent polls. Bush voted today at a firehouse near his ranch, telling bystanders: “I hope people vote. I’m encouraging all people across this country to vote.”