For voters, Election Day presents a big test for Trumpism

There were first-time voters and straight-ticket voters and some who, this go-around, switched sides. They went to the polls considering the caravan of migrants trudging across Mexico, their health insurance and their paychecks, an impotent Congress and the nation's poisonous political culture that has divided even families and friends along party lines.

More than anything on this Election Day in America, in a midterm contest like no other before it, voters cast their ballots with one man in mind: President Donald Trump.

"I would have never thought this country would elect Donald Trump as president," said Kimball Blake, 61, a Knoxville, Tennessee, energy engineer who called Trump's presidency a "profound factor" in his decision to vote Democratic in his state's U.S. Senate race. "It got me out to vote this year, not that it usually takes that much motivation."

Americans turned out in droves Tuesday — some lining up before the sun rose, some standing for hours or braving pouring rain or snow — to vote in an election that will determine control of Congress and render a verdict on Trump's first two years in office. The outcome could redefine the nation's political landscape for months and years to come.

Democrats need to gain 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives, and hope to ride the wave of liberal fury that organized after Trump's surprising victory in 2016.

See more related to this story:

28 PHOTOS
Candidates casting their votes during the 2018 midterm election
See Gallery
Candidates casting their votes during the 2018 midterm election
Democratic candidate Christine Hallquist votes during the midterm election in Hyde Park, Vermont, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Caleb Kenna
Democratic Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrives to vote in the midterm elections in the Bronx, New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Missouri Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley, left, checks in to the polling place before voting, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbia, Mo. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX), candidate for U.S. Senate arrives with his family to vote in the 2018 midterm elections in El Paso, Texas, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Republican candidate for Governor Ron DeSantis arrives to vote, carrying his daughter Madison, in the midterm elections at a polling place in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Democratic congressional candidate Ilhan Omar walks to the vote counting machine after filling out her ballot during midterm elections in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Eric Miller
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, center, carrying son Davis, age 16 months, leaves the polling place after voting with wife R. Jai, right, during midterm elections in Tallahassee, Florida, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Colin Hackley TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Alaska independent U.S. House candidate Alyse Galvin smiles after emerging from a voting booth on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Anchorage, Alaska. Galvin, who arrived at the polling location with her family, is challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young for Alaska's lone U.S. House seat. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)
California gubernatorial Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom walks with his daughter, Montana, 9, to turn his ballot after voting Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Larkspur, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp gives the thumbs up sign as he and youngest daughter Amy Porter leave after voting Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Winterville, Ga. Kemp is in a close race with Democrat Stacey Abrams. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Virginia Republican senatorial candidate Corey Stewart, center, and his wife Maria Stewart, left, voting at St. Margaret's Episcopal Church in Woodbridge, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Wife Maria Stewart
Marty Nothstein, Republican candidate in Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District, arrive at his polling station to vote Tuesday Nov. 6, 2018, in New Tripoli, Pa. Nothstein is facing Democrat Susan Wild for the seat held by Charlie Dent who retired. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
Anthony Brindisi, left, Democratic candidate for New York's 22nd Congressional District, casts his vote at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Brindisi, a Democratic Assemblyman, is hoping to defeat Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney in New York's 22nd Congressional District race. Pictured at right are his wife, Erica McGovern Brindisi, and his daughter, Lily Grace Brindisi. (AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth)
Democratic congressional candidate Amy McGrath checks in with poll workers before voting on Election Day in Georgetown, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Bryan Woolston)
Haley Stevens, candidate for Michigan's 11th Congressional District, gives a thumbs up as exits her polling place Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Rochester Hills, Mich. Stevens is running against Lena Epstein. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Candidate for Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., gestures after casting his ballot in Langhorne, Pa., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
California gubernatorial Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom ties the shoe laces of his son Hunter, 7, as his son, Dutch, 2, looks on after voting Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Larkspur, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Dana Balter, candidate for the House of Representatives in New York's 24th Congressional District, applies her "I Voted" sticker after casting her vote in Syracuse, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)
AGUA DULCE, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Democratic Congressional candidate Katie Hill (L) shakes hands with a poll worker after casting her ballot at a polling place in California's 25th Congressional district on November 6, 2018 in Agua Dulce, California. Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve Knight is competing against Hill for his seat in the district in a close race. Political races across the country are being hotly contested for House and Senate seats. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
COSTA MESA, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Longtime Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) passes people heading toward a polling place as he walks with family members after dropping off his ballot on November 6, 2018 in Costa Mesa, California. According to recent polling, Rohrabacher and Democratic challenger Harley Rouda are in a virtual tie to represent the 48th Congressional district. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
COLUMBIA, MO - NOVEMBER 06: Missouri's Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Josh Hawley casts his vote on election day at The Crossings Church on November 6, 2018 in Columbia, Missouri. Hawley, the current Missouri Attorney General, is hoping to unseat current Democratic incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill. (Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images)
TURLOCK, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California's 10th Congressional District casts his vote at the Berkeley Ave Baptist Church on November 6, 2018 in Turlock, California. Denham, a four-term Republican incumbent and Air Force veteran, is competing against Democratic challenger Josh Harder in one of seven closely-contested congressional races currently held by the GOP in California won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 as the Democrats hope to regain control of the House in the midterm elections. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
WHITMAN, MA - NOVEMBER 6: Republican U.S. Senate candidate Geoff Diehl and his wife KathyJo Boss leave Whitman Town Hall in Whitman, MA after casting their votes on Election Day, Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Democratic congressional candidate Cindy Axne gets her ballot for the midterm elections at her polling station in West Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Scott Morgan
Democratic congressional candidate running in the 49th district Mike Levin gets an "I Voted" sticker put on by his wife Chrissy after they voted during midterm elections in San Juan Capistrano, California, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gretchen Whitmer shakes hands after voting in midterm election at her polling station at the St. Paul Lutheran Church in East Lansing, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky
Democratic U.S. congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib points to her 'I voted' sticker after voting during the midterm election in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. Democratic Congressional candidate Jahana Hayes waits in line to fill out her ballot to vote at a voting station during the midterm election in Wolcott, Connecticut, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"My loathing for him knows no bounds," said Kathleen Ross, a 69-year-old retired professor, as she cast her ballot for Democrats in Olympia, Washington, confident the country will eventually reject Trumpism and the divisive governing it represents. "I tend to think the arc of the universe bends toward justice, so I don't become discouraged."

Trump has sought to counter some of that rage by stoking anger and fear in his base. In recent weeks, he's put the spotlight on a caravan of Central American migrants fleeing poverty and violence that he calls "an invasion" of criminals and terrorists. He ran an advertisement about immigration so racially incendiary that all three major cable news networks, including Fox News, either refused to air it or eventually decided to stop showing it.

Among some Republican voters, that message resonated.

"What's going on right now is pretty scary to me, at the border, with all those people coming, and I don't think I'm hardhearted or anything," said Patricia Maynard, a 63-year-old retired teacher in Skowhegan, Maine.

When she voted for Trump in 2016, the blue-collar economy was her primary concern. Now, she said, immigration tops the list. She laments that Congress has so far failed to pass legislation to build the wall Trump promised along the border. So she voted for Republicans Tuesday, with hopes they would retain control and push Trump's agenda.

In Westerville, Ohio, Judy Jenkins cast her vote at a suburban church and said she supports Trump's decision to send military troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to intercept the caravan — a move critics say is unnecessary and a political stunt, given the migrants are traveling mostly on foot and remain hundreds of miles away.

"We don't know what that caravan is bringing," said Jenkins, who describes Trump as "my guy," though she concedes she cringes at some of what he says. "Who's perfect?" she said.

For many on the other side of the political aisle, the caravan controversy singularly represents what they find unconscionable about Trump's presidency.

"He's always used the scare tactics and found an enemy to band against," said 24-year-old Enrique Padilla of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Padilla considers his own family an example of the American dream. His father migrated from Mexico as a laborer at 18, raised his family, and now Padilla has a college degree. The president's persistent demonization of immigrants galvanized him and many of his peers to vote against Republicans, Padilla said.

In Louisville, Kentucky, Mary Cross, a 64-year-old African-American voter, said she believes Trump uses issues like immigration to distract from more important topics, and in doing so infuses fear and distrust into society. "It's manufactured fear. It's uncivilized. It's just a bunch of mayhem for nothing. There's no substance to this," said Cross, who thinks the country should be talking about the Republican-led campaign to overturn the Affordable Health Care Act that protects people with pre-existing conditions.

Cross, and others, expressed a heightened sense of unease and sadness about the state of America's political climate. The election comes just days after a series of hate crimes and political attacks, including the arrest of a man who mailed pipe bombs to Trump critics whom the president often derides as "evil," ''un-American," and "the enemy." Where Cross lives, a gunman tried to get into a majority-black church but found the doors locked and went instead to a nearby grocery store, where he gunned down two elderly African-American shoppers in what police are calling a hate crime.

See more related to this story:

20 PHOTOS
Voters head to the polls for the 2018 Midterm Elections
See Gallery
Voters head to the polls for the 2018 Midterm Elections
Voters line up in the rain outside Bright Family and Youth Center in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Voters line up in the rain outside Bright Family and Youth Center in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A voter waits for assistance from a volunteer at the Tuttle Park Recreation Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Voters prepare to vote at the Tuttle Park Recreation Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Voters cast their ballots at the Glen Echo Presbyterian Church polling location, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, center, talks with a reporter at his polling place after voting on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Butler, Pa. Kelly faces democratic challenger Ron DiNicola in the newly redrawn 16th district in Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., right, candidate for Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District, greets a voter outside the Carroll Township Municipal Building, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Dillsburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., second from right, candidate for Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District, smiles as he waits in line to vote at the Carroll Township Municipal Building, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Dillsburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Voters arrive at the Tuttle Park Recreation Center polling location, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Poll worker Sarah Thomas places signs outside a precinct before polls open on election day in Atlanta, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. Across the country, voters headed to the polls Tuesday in one of the most high-profile midterm elections in years. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Voters line up as the polls open at David Park Community Center Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 in Hollywood, Fla. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
A voter of the Jewish community is seen leaving after he cast his ballot in the midterm election at the East Midwood Jewish Center polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on November 6, 2018. - Americans started voting Tuesday in critical midterm elections that mark the first major voter test of Donald Trump's presidency, with control of Congress at stake. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, USA - NOVEMBER 06 : Voters at the polls on early Tuesday to cast their votes in the midterm elections in Fairfax, Virginia, United States on November 06, 2018. (Photo by Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A voter casts his ballot in the midterm election at the East Midwood Jewish Center polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on November 6, 2018. - Americans started voting Tuesday in critical midterm elections that mark the first major voter test of Donald Trump's presidency, with control of Congress at stake. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
A man votes at the Greenspring Retirement center during the mid-term election day in Fairfax, Virginia on November 6, 2018. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the Greenspring Republican club wait for potential voters to hand out information at the Greenspring Retirement center during the mid-term election day in Fairfax, Virginia on November 6, 2018. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
Stickers sit as an election worker waits for people to vote during the midterm election at P.S. 140 in Manhattan in New York City, U.S., November 6, 2018. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Voters wait in line in the gymnasium at Brunswick Junior High School to receive their ballots for the mid-term election, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Brunswick, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
Stuart Wood, from Stockton, Mo., votes at Caplinger Woods RV & Campgrounds, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Stockton, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kristen Leach votes with her six-month-old daughter, Nora, on election day in Atlanta, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"Our president, with his rhetoric and vulgar language, continues to throw fuel on the fire. Racism has always been around, but since he's been in office, people feel free to express it and feel good about it," said the Rev. Kevin Nelson, the pastor of the Louisville church the gunman tried and failed to enter. The congregation has received cards and calls from all over the country, from Christians and Jews and Muslims and atheists — and also a white man in Texas who said he was sorry about what happened and promised to cast his ballot against the rhetoric he believed to be igniting hate.

"You're always hoping that somehow, some way, someday, it's going to change," Nelson said before he voted Tuesday. "I'm hopeful that it could this time."

Many voters said the political tribalism has infested their everyday lives. The Simon Wiesenthal Center released a survey on the eve of the election that showed a quarter of Americans have lost friends over political disagreements and are less likely to attend social functions because of politics.

Odell White, a 60-year-old African-American conservative, described the state of the country's political discourse as veering toward civil war.

"We are dangerously close to that type of mentality — brothers fighting brothers. That's how bad it is," said White, who supports Trump and voted Tuesday for Republicans. Friends have turned away because of his political leanings. White said he doesn't like the president's aggressive rhetoric, but he's willing to overlook it because of the booming economy and the two conservatives Trump installed on the Supreme Court.

But Trumpism has proved too much for some.

In Portland, Maine, Josh Rent, 43, a small business owner and registered Republican, said he voted mostly for Democrats all the way down the ballot for the first time to protest Trump, who he believes is unnecessarily dividing Americans for his own gain.

"He's just nasty," he said. "Life doesn't have to be this nasty, in my opinion."

___

Also contributing were AP reporters Steve Megargee in Tennessee, Jocelyn Noveck in New York, Rachel La Corte in Washington, Margery Beck in Nebraska, Kantele Franko in Ohio, Summer Ballentine and Jim Salter in Missouri, Matt Volz in Montana, Hannah Grabenstein in Arkansas and Chris Chester in Maine.

___

For AP's complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.