Washington, Nov 5 (AP/UNB) — The day of reckoning for American politics has nearly arrived.
Voters on Tuesday will decide the $5 billion debate between President Donald Trump's take-no-prisoner politics and the Democratic Party's super-charged campaign to end the GOP's monopoly in Washington and statehouses across the nation.
There are indications that an oft-discussed "blue wave" may help Democrats seize control of at least one chamber of Congress. But two years after an election that proved polls and prognosticators wrong, nothing is certain on the eve of the first nationwide elections of the Trump presidency.
"I don't think there's a Democrat in this country that doesn't have a little angst left over from 2016 deep down," said Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY's List, which spent more than ever before — nearly $60 million in all — to support Democratic women this campaign season.
"Everything matters and everything's at stake," Schriock said.
All 435 seats in the U.S. House are up for re-election. And 35 Senate seats are in play, as are almost 40 governorships and the balance of power in virtually every state legislature.
While he is not on the ballot, Trump himself has acknowledged that the 2018 midterms, above all, represent a referendum on his presidency.
Should Democrats win control of the House, as strategists in both parties suggest is likely, they could derail Trump's legislative agenda for the next two years. Perhaps more importantly, they would also win subpoena power to investigate the president's many personal and professional missteps.
Tuesday's elections will also test the strength of a Trump-era political realignment defined by evolving divisions among voters by race, gender and especially education.
Trump's Republican coalition is increasingly becoming older, whiter, more male and less likely to have a college degree. Democrats are relying more upon women, people of color, young people and college graduates.
The political realignment, if there is one, could re-shape U.S. politics for a generation.
Just five years ago, the Republican National Committee reported that the GOP's very survival depended upon attracting more minorities and women. Those voters have increasingly fled Trump's Republican Party, turned off by his chaotic leadership style and xenophobic rhetoric. Blue-collar men, however, have embraced the unconventional president.
One of the RNC report's authors, Ari Fleischer, acknowledged that Republican leaders never envisioned expanding their ranks with white, working-class men.
"What it means to be Republican is being rewritten as we speak," Fleischer said. "Donald Trump has the pen, and his handwriting isn't always very good."
A nationwide poll released Sunday by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal details the depth of the demographic shifts.
Democrats led with likely African-American voters (84 percent to 8 percent), Latinos (57 percent to 29 percent), voters between the ages of 18-34 (57 percent to 34 percent), women (55 percent to 37 percent) and independents (35 percent to 23 percent).
Among white college-educated women, Democrats enjoy a 28-point advantage: 61 percent to 33 percent.
On the other side, Republicans led with voters between the ages of 50 and 64 (52 percent to 43 percent), men (50 percent to 43 percent) and whites (50 percent to 44 percent). And among white men without college degrees, Republicans led 65 percent to 30 percent.
Democrats hope to elect a record number of women to Congress. They are also poised to make history with the number of LGBT candidates and Muslims up and down the ballot.
Former President Barack Obama seized on the differences between the parties in a final-days scramble to motivate voters across the nation.
"One election won't eliminate racism, sexism or homophobia," Obama said during an appearance in Florida. "It's not going to happen in one election. But it'll be a start."
Trump has delivered a very different closing argument, railing against Latin American immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border.
With the walking caravan weeks away, Trump dispatched more than 5,000 troops to the region. The president also said soldiers would use lethal force against migrants who throw rocks, before later reversing himself.
Still, his xenophobic rhetoric has been unprecedented for an American president in the modern era: "Barbed wire used properly can be a beautiful sight," Trump told voters in Montana.
The hyper-charged environment is expected to drive record turnout in some places, but on the eve of the election, it's far from certain which side will show up in the greatest numbers.
The outcome is clouded by the dramatically different landscape between the House and Senate.
Democrats are most optimistic about the House, a sprawling battlefield extending from Alaska to Florida. Most top races, however, are set in America's suburbs where more educated and affluent voters in both parties have soured on Trump's turbulent presidency, despite the strength of the national economy.
Democrats need to pick up two dozen seats to claim the House majority.
Billionaire former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who personally invested $110 million to help Democrats this year, largely in the House, has seized on voter education levels in picking target races, according to senior aide Howard Wolfson.
"In this cycle, it seemed as if there was a disproportionately negative reaction among highly educated voters to Trump," he said.
As a result, Bloomberg's team poured money into otherwise overlooked suburban districts in states like Georgia, Washington state and Oklahoma because data revealed voters there were better-educated.
Democrats face a far more difficult challenge in the Senate, where they are almost exclusively on defense in rural states where Trump remains popular. Democratic Senate incumbents are up for re-election, for example, in North Dakota, West Virginia, and Montana — states Trump carried by 30 percentage points on average two years ago.
Democrats need to win two seats to claim the Senate majority, although most political operatives in both parties expect Republicans to add to their majority.
While Trump is prepared to claim victory if his party retains Senate control, at least one prominent ally fears that losing even one chamber of Congress could be disastrous.
"If they take back the House, he essentially will become a lame-duck president, and he won't win re-election," said Amy Kremer, a tea party activist who leads the group Women for Trump.
"They'll do anything and everything they can to impeach him," she said.
Indeed, powerful Democratic forces are already pushing for Trump's impeachment, even if Democratic leaders aren't ready to go that far.
Liberal activist Tom Steyer spent roughly $120 million this midterm season. Much of that has gone to boost turnout among younger voters, although he has produced a nationwide advertising campaign calling for Trump's impeachment.
Steyer insisted that most Democrats agree.
"We're not some fringe element of the Democratic Party. We are the Democratic Party," he said.
By Election Day, both sides are expected to have spent more than $5 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The flood of campaign cash, a midterm record, has been overwhelmingly fueled by energy on the left.
Money aside, Steyer said he and concerned voters everywhere have invested their hearts and souls into the fight to punish Trump's party.
"That's what's at stake: my heart and soul, along with everybody else's," he said.
Mexico City, Nov. 4 (Xinhua/UNB) - More than 3,200 Central Americans who had been heading towards the United States have applied to Mexico for asylum over the past two weeks, the government said on Saturday.
The applicants, mainly Honduran, are part of a massive caravan of migrants headed on foot towards the United States.
In a joint statement, the Foreign Affairs Ministry and Interior Ministry said a total of 3,230 asylum applications have been received to date.
With U.S. President Donald Trump taking an increasingly hostile stance towards the migrant caravan, many have opted to try and remain in Mexico.
More than 400 of the applicants have decided to abandon the procedure and have asked to be deported, officials said.
"It is a migratory exodus," Interior Minister Alfonso Navarrete said on Wednesday, adding the migrants were fleeing poverty and a lack of opportunities.
Authorities estimate the first caravan includes 5,347 people at this point, with 4,347 making their way north through Mexico's Gulf Coast state of Veracruz and another thousand traveling through the southern state of Oaxaca.
Mexico, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — Hundreds of Central American migrants from a 4,000-strong caravan winding its way through southern Mexico and toward the U.S. border splintered off on their own Saturday after broken promises of bus transportation.
Patience appeared to be wearing thin among the exhausted trekkers after Veracruz Gov. Miguel Angel Yunes reneged on an offer Friday to provide buses to leapfrog the migrants to the Mexican capital. Tempers flared as the migrants struggled with exhaustion, blisters, sickness and swollen feet.
Caravan organizers have pleaded for buses in recent days after three weeks on the road, hitching rides and walking. The group scattered between several towns in Veracruz Saturday, raising questions of whether they would stick together.
Several thousand planned to spend the night in Isla, about 700 miles (1,126 kilometers) south of the U.S. border, while another large contingent hunkered down in Juan Rodriguez Clara and yet another reached Tierra Blanca, 80 miles (129 kilometers) to the north.
In a statement, the migrants lambasted Mexican officials for directing them northward through the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz, calling it the "route of death." Some migrants branched off in the belief that they were near the metropolises of Puebla and Mexico City, where they aimed to rest and receive medical attention.
A trek via the sugar fields and fruit groves of Veracruz takes them through a state where hundreds of migrants have disappeared in recent years, falling prey to kidnappers looking for ransom payments.
Authorities in Veracruz said in September they had discovered remains from at least 174 people buried in clandestine graves. Some security experts have questioned whether those bodies belonged to migrants.
Ibis Villanueva, 32, said he decided to strike out on his own for Puebla because he felt frustrated by the lack of organization in the caravan.
"We don't believe the coordinators anymore. Yesterday they said we were going on bus, today no," said the sunburned welder from Honduras.
Gerardo Perez, a 20-year-old migrant, said he was tired. "They're playing with our dignity. If you could have only seen the people's happiness last night when they told us that we were going by bus and today we're not," he said.
The caravan's 'strength in numbers' strategy has enabled them to mobilize support as they move through Mexico and has inspired subsequent migrants to try their luck via caravan.
Mexico now faces the unprecedented situation of having three caravans stretched over 300 miles (500 kilometers) of highway in the states of Chiapas, Oaxaca and Veracruz, with a total of more than 6,000 migrants.
On Friday, a caravan from El Salvador waded over the Suchiate River into Mexico, bringing 1,000 to 1,500 people who want to reach the U.S. border.
That caravan initially tried to cross the bridge between Guatemala and Mexico, but Mexican authorities told them they would have to show passports and visas and enter in groups of 50 for processing.
Another caravan, also of about 1,000 to 1,500 people, entered Mexico earlier this week and is now in Chiapas. That group includes Hondurans, Salvadorans and some Guatemalans.
The first, largest group of mainly Honduran migrants entered Mexico on Oct. 19. At its peak that caravan swelled to an estimated 7,000 participants.
Mexican officials appear conflicted over whether to help or hinder their journeys.
Immigration agents and police have at times detained migrants in the smaller caravans. There has also been pressure on the main caravan, with federal police pulling over freight trucks and forcing migrants off, saying that clinging to the tops or sides of the trucks was dangerous.
But several mayors have rolled out the welcome mat for migrants who reached their towns - arranging for food and camp sites. Mexico's Interior Department says nearly 3,000 of the migrants in the first caravan have applied for refuge in Mexico and hundreds more have returned home.
With or without the government's help, uncertainty awaits.
President Donald Trump has ordered U.S. troops to the Mexican border in response to the caravans. More than 7,000 active duty troops have been told to deploy to Texas, Arizona and California ahead of the midterm elections.
He plans to sign an order next week that could lead to the large-scale detention of migrants crossing the southern border and bar anyone caught crossing illegally from claiming asylum.
Pensacola, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — President Donald Trump on Saturday used his final Florida campaign event before next week's elections to implore supporters to send Republicans to the governor's mansion and the U.S. Senate, claiming that allowing Democrats to win either office would bring ruin to the state he also calls home.
Trump returned to Florida for the second time this week to help rally support for Gov. Rick Scott, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. Trump also sought to boost former Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is facing off against Andrew Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, in the race for governor.
Trump argued that Gillum would "destroy Florida" and claimed that Gillum's policies would be a "total nightmare" for the state.
"You have only one choice, Ron DeSantis for governor," Trump told thousands of cheering supporters at a rally at Pensacola International Airport, with Air Force One park right outside of the hangar.
"If you want to pay high taxes, you ought to vote for the mayor of Tallahassee," Trump said. "You will destroy the state that I love." Trump noted that he also calls Florida home; his Mar-a-Lago estate is located in Palm Beach and he spends most weekends there in the winter.
Trump also criticized Nelson, claiming that he only sees the former astronaut "around election time when he's on television every night."
Earlier Saturday, Trump campaigned in Montana, where he made it clear that he wants to see Democrat Jon Tester booted from the Senate on Tuesday over a personal grudge as much as political ambition.
Trump blames Tester for the defeat of his nominee to run the Department of Veterans Affairs. The president told hundreds of cheering supporters at a separate airport rally in the Montana chill that Tester "tried to destroy" Ronny Jackson, a Navy admiral and White House doctor.
"That's why I'm here," Trump said. "I've never forgotten it and it's honestly one of the reasons I'm here so much," said Trump, who last campaigned in Montana in mid-October. "It's a disgrace, what he did to that man."
Trump was in Montana to boost GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale, who is challenging Tester in Tuesday's election. The rallies are part of Trump's multistate blitz in the run-up to Tuesday's balloting, when control of the House and Senate — and perhaps the future of Trump's agenda — are at stake.
Trump said having Rosendale in the Senate will be "phenomenal."
The president blames Tester for the backlash against Jackson, who eventually withdrew his nomination after facing anonymous ethics allegations, including claims of on-the-job drunkenness and wrecking a government vehicle.
Jackson denied the allegations.
Tester, the top Democrat on the Senate committee that oversees veterans' issues, had released a list of the allegations against Jackson that was compiled by the committee's Democratic staff.
Trump, however, doesn't mention that the allegations weren't the only factor that contributed Jackson withdrawing from consideration. Lawmakers questioned Jackson's limited managerial experience and his fitness to run a department as sprawling as the VA.
At both rallies, Trump sought to rally the energized crowds by talking up the economy and tax cuts, new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, border security and several caravans of Central American migrants who are slowly advancing toward the U.S.-Mexico border.
He mentioned plans for a new military branch called the Space Force, and complained anew about the news media.
Trump also defended his decision to focus almost exclusively on the migrants and immigration in the closing days of the election. He recently announced that he intends to change asylum procedures, end the constitutional guarantee of birthright citizenship and build numerous "tent cities" to hold migrants caught crossing the border illegally.
"You can only say so many times that we created 250,000 jobs last month," Trump said in Montana, in defense of his focus on immigration that some of the president's critics say amounts to fear-mongering. Trump has denied trying to instill fear as a reason to vote Republican on Election Day.
"When we're fixing a problem or fixed a problem there's no reason to go on about it for 45 minutes," Trump said.
Trump also called up Rep. Greg Gianforte to speak from the podium but did not repeat his praise of the congressman, who was convicted of body slamming a journalist just before winning a 2017 special election. Trump had said during last month's Montana stop that anyone who can do a body slam "is my kind of guy."
Lake Hallie, Nov 4 (AP/UNB) — A pickup truck lurched off a road in western Wisconsin Saturday and hit a group of Girl Scouts picking up trash in a ditch, leaving three girls and one adult dead and critically injuring a fourth girl, police said.
Sgt. Daniel Sokup of the Lake Hallie Police Department said the driver of the black Ford F-150 pickup truck fled the scene but later turned himself in. He identified the driver as Colton Treu, 21, of Chippewa, Falls, Wisconsin.
Sokup said Treu will be charged with four counts of homicide through the negligent use of a vehicle. Sokup said the crash happened before a hill and there were no blind spots.
"The area is not an unsafe area," he said. Sokup said it was not immediately known if there were other factors that might have led the driver to leave the road.
The crash happened late Saturday morning as the girls were picking up litter in a ditch in Lake Hallie, a town about 95 miles (153 kilometers) east of Minneapolis. The pickup was heading north and crossed over a lane and went into the ditch, striking the group.
The girls were in the fourth grade at Halmstad Elementary School in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune quoted a relative of a girl in the troop who was not injured as saying. The Girl Scouts were all wearing bright safety vests and were accompanied by several adults.
Two of the girls and the woman were pronounced dead at the scene. A third Girl Scout was transported to a hospital where she later died, Sokup said. The fourth girl was transported to a hospital in critical condition. The names of the dead were not immediately released.