Democrats were on track to capture control of the House of Representatives Tuesday night while Republicans held the Senate and were positioned to add to their majority, a result that President Trump quickly sought to portray as an overall victory.
Amid signs that the nation’s deep political and cultural divisions that lifted Mr. Trump in 2016 may only be deepening, rural voters were breaking sharply with their counterparts in the suburban districts and metropolitan areas, as turnout soared in a midterm election that came to serve as a national referendum on the president.
In the states Mr. Trump made a priority — Florida, Georgia, Indiana — he came away with several marquee victories for Senate and governor. Ron DeSantis, a close Trump ally running for governor of Florida, defeated Andrew Gillum, who was trying to become the first black leader of the state. Brian Kemp, the Georgia Republican, was ahead of Stacey Abrams in the governor’s race there.
But in parts of the country with many college-educated white voters, some of whom supported Mr. Trump in 2016, his style of leadership and his singular focus on immigration in the last weeks of the campaign contributed to Republican House losses.
Among the major races of the night, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two moderate Democrats in increasingly conservative states, were decisively defeated thanks to Republican strength in small towns and rural areas. In Tennessee, Representative Marsha Blackburn, a conservative Republican, was dominating former Gov. Phil Bredesen in the middle and western parts of the state that were once Democratic strongholds. And Senator Ted Cruz overwhelmed Beto O’Rourke, the popular liberal congressman, through much of rural Texas.
“Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” Mr. Trump tweeted late Tuesday night.
But in the House, where Republicans had a 23-seat majority, Democrats captured 17 Republican-held seats through Tuesday night and were ahead in several more districts, with Western states still to be called. Democrats ejected incumbents in the suburbs of Kansas City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, Miami and Washington, D.C.. — winning decisively in moderate districts where Mr. Trump’s racial demagoguery and hard-line nationalism has badly shaken college-educated voters and other parts of the old-school Republican coalition.
Republicans remained deeply anxious through the night about a long list of House seats anchored in the suburbs of the East Coast and the Midwest, with a long night of ballot-counting ahead in blue-tinted districts out West that Hillary Clinton carried two years ago.
The two parties each won important governorships. In Michigan, a historic Democratic stronghold that the president carried narrowly in 2016, voters chose Gretchen Whitmer, a former Democratic leader in the State Senate. Illinois voters elected J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat and Hyatt hotel heir, over the embattled governor, Bruce Rauner.
But the party’s hopes for making Andrew Gillum the first black governor of Florida were lost, as the liberal Tallahassee mayor conceded the race to Ron DeSantis, a hard-line former member of Congress aligned with Mr. Trump.
The night began with a result in Kentucky that suggested a night of mixed results. Republicans staved off an early setback in a conservative-leaning House district in central Kentucky, as Representative Andy Barr repelled a fierce challenge from Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot running as a Democrat. Mr. Barr’s survival offered some hope to Republicans that they could hang on to a small majority in the House, though they still face a punishing test in scores of more moderate, suburban districts.
The Republican Mike Braun defeated Senator Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, decisively in Indiana on Tuesday.CreditDarron Cummings/Associated Press
No matter who wins, the elections are bound to reshape how Americans see politics, the Trump presidency and individual battleground states.
Many voters were waiting to see if the country would place a check on Mr. Trump and Republican power in Washington, and if antagonism toward the president would fuel a wave of Republican losses. But just as Mr. Trump shocked many Americans with his victory in the Electoral College in 2016, the possibility that he might receive a political boost Tuesday with Republican wins in the Senate — if not a mandate for the next two years — was a bracing thought for Democrats, and an energizing one for Republicans.
In Chapmanville, W.Va., a hardware store worker, Chance Bradley, said he was voting Republican because Mr. Trump had made him “feel like an American again.” But Carl Blevins, a retired coal miner, voted Democratic and said he didn’t understand how anybody could support Mr. Trump — or, for that matter, the Republican candidate for Senate there, Patrick Morrisey.
“I think they put something in the water,” Mr. Blevins said.
The political leanings of battlegrounds like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa were also a huge of focus of interest Tuesday. Those states voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, and Republicans were fighting to extend their hold on them, while Democrats were aiming to pick off governor’s offices in several and demonstrate strength ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted sweeping Democratic gains on Tuesday during a private meeting with political allies in Washington on Tuesday. But she warned that President Trump might attempt to brand the election as “rigged” if the ultimate result was close, according to three people present for her remarks.
Mr. Trump has appeared sensitive in recent days to the possibility that losing the House might be seen as a repudiation of his presidency, even telling reporters that he has been more focused on the Senate than on the scores of contested congressional districts where he is unpopular. And Mr. Trump insisted that he would not take the election results as a reflection on his performance.
“I don’t view this as for myself,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday, adding that he believed he had made a “big difference” in a handful of Senate elections.
Yet in interviews Tuesday, voters in both parties repeatedly agreed that the election was fundamentally about President Trump, and that the country was bitterly divided. But they couldn’t agree on whose fault that was.
Debbie Eschbacher said at a polling place in Chesterfield, Mo., that she was sick of what she described as “liberals yelling at people.” Jay Kim, on the other hand, said he was sick of Mr. Trump “dividing the country.”
Early exit polls of voters, released by CNN on Tuesday night, showed a mixed assessment of President Trump as well as of Democratic leaders, and a generally gloomy mood in the country after months of tumultuous campaigning marked by racial tensions and spurts of violence.
Senator Ted Cruz overwhelmed Representative Beto O’Rourke through much of rural Texas.CreditTamir Kalifa for The New York Times
Fifty-six percent of voters said they thought the country was headed in the wrong direction, with 56 percent disapproving of President Trump, 54 percent disapproving of the Republican Party and 55 percent disapproving of Ms. Pelosi, the House Democratic leader.
That pessimism belied the positive impression that most voters hold about the economy halfway through Mr. Trump’s term. Sixty-eight percent of voters said they believed it was in good shape; when it came to personal finances, only 14 percent said they were worse off than a year ago. Eighty-four percent said their finances were either better off or in the same position.
Mr. Trump has campaigned hard on appeals to law and order and fears over undocumented immigrants, but the exit polls suggest most voters have been focused on something else: health care.
Forty-one percent of voters said health care was the most important issue facing the country, while only 23 percent cited immigration. The economy was the top issue for 21 percent of voters, and 11 percent said they were most concerned with gun policy.
Overall, 39 percent of voters said they went to the polls to express their opposition to the president, while 26 percent said they wanted to show support for him. Thirty-three percent said Mr. Trump was not a factor in their vote.
An array of elections on the East Coast for Congress and several powerful governorships were expected to give an early indication of how far the country has swung back toward the political middle — or even to the left — since Mr. Trump’s upset victory in 2016.
Several dozen contested congressional races — in states including Virginia, Florida, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — had the potential to put Republicans’ majority in the House at risk. The G.O.P. has struggled to maintain its political footing in the country’s moderate suburbs under Mr. Trump’s leadership, and educated white voters in these areas have been defecting to Democrats in strong numbers since last year.
Both parties were also closely watching several more conservative districts, from the Virginia coastline to central Kentucky, for signs of Republican tenacity with rural and blue-collar voters.
Most significant in the East might be a pair of governorships in Georgia and Florida, historically Republican-leaning states where Democrats nominated liberal African-American candidates in a daring bid to make political history. Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic leader in the Georgia House, and Mr. Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, would both be the first black governors in their states, if elected.
Governor’s and Senate races across the Midwest were also expected to signal the strength of the unconventional political coalition that elected Mr. Trump in 2016. Republicans were girding for defeat in Michigan, where Mr. Trump narrowly won, and Illinois, where he did not. They anxiously watched races in Wisconsin, Iowa and Ohio to see if the party’s ascendancy there would endure.
Gretchen Whitmer, a former Democratic leader in the State Senate, was elected governor of Michigan.CreditBrittany Greeson for The New York Times
Should congressional Democrats fail to make powerful gains in the East and Midwest, there is the potential for a long night of vote-counting and even days or weeks of indecision if control of the House comes down to California. More than a half-dozen Republican-held House seats are at stake there, and the state’s vote-by-mail system makes for notoriously slow tabulation.
Puerto Ricans, many of them displaced by Hurricane Maria, turned out in droves in Florida, where both the Senate and governor’s races were competitive. Martín Coto Colón split his ballot: He voted for Mr. Gillum, a Democrat, for governor, but Rick Scott, the Republican currently serving as governor, for the Senate.
It all came down, Mr. Coto said, to how candidates behaved toward Puerto Rico. Mr. Scott visited the island at least eight times after the storm. But Mr. Coto said that he felt Mr. Trump had shown a “lack of respect” in Puerto Rico and that Ron DeSantis, Mr. Gillum’s Republican opponent, was too close to the president.
In Orlando, Frameyry Baez, a Dominican immigrant, said that after many years as a legal permanent resident, she had become an American citizen in response to the 2016 election. Now, she said, she was voting a straight Democratic ticket — largely because of Mr. Trump’s and other Republicans’ immigration rhetoric and policy, which she called racist.
“This will be the first time I have the opportunity,” Ms. Baez said, “and I will try to make change.”
After weeks of anxiety about possible voter suppression, snags were reported in some states.
In New York, lines spilled out of the doors of libraries and public schools as some people waited as long as four hours to vote. The city’s two-page ballots caused scanners at a number of polling sites to jam, and officials said rain-dampened paper had made the problems worse. Millions of voters along the East Coast and the Great Lakes turned out in thunderstorms and gusting wind.
In Georgia, some voters had to wait 90 minutes or more to vote — partly because of technical problems and partly because of unusually high turnout. Some voters had to cast paper ballots because the machines were broken. Long lines persisted well after the machines were fixed, and at least one precinct in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, was seeking to extend its hours because a poll manager failed to offer paper ballots while the machines were down.
In several states, voters also said they had received text messages directing them to incorrect polling places.
But both parties prepared for a long night of vote-counting in a series of House and Senate contests as well as governorships that are on a knife’s edge. The most uncertainty in governor’s races was centered on campaigns in large states like Georgia, Florida and Ohio, while Democrats were hoping to spring upsets in red states like South Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas.
All the results will likely not be known by the end of the night: California and Arizona, for example, will both continue to tally ballots that come in by mail so long as they are postmarked by Tuesday.
Far more Americans took advantage of absentee and early voting this year than during the last midterm election, with 39 million of those ballots cast nationwide compared with 27 million in 2014.