President seeks voter support as majority hangs in the balance

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump, his shadow hanging over midterm elections that will determine the future of his administration, used his final pitch to ask voters to help preserve “fragile” GOP victories that could be erased by Democratic gains in Congress.

Acknowledging the stakes in the closing days of campaigning, Trump stressed to voters that everything is on the line.

“It’s all fragile. Everything I told you about, it can be undone and changed by the Democrats if they get in,” Trump told supporters Monday on a telephone “town hall” organized by his re-election campaign. “You see how they’ve behaved. You see what’s happening with them. They’ve really become radicalized.”

In an election-eve interview, Trump struck a gentler note saying he regretted some of his caustic campaign rhetoric.

“I would like to have a much softer tone. I feel to a certain extent I have no choice, but maybe I do,” Trump said.

Trump spent his final hours on the trail Monday in Ohio, Indiana and Missouri, where his rhetoric on illegal immigration turned harsh and he lobbed attacks at Democrats.

“The contrast in this election could not be more clear. Democrats produce mobs,” Trump said at his final rally Monday night in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. “That’s what’s happened. Republicans produce jobs.”

Trump has maintained a busy campaign schedule in the final stretch of the race, with 11 rallies over six days. In the closing days Trump has brought out special guests to join him. Country singer Lee Greenwood performed Trump favorite “God Bless the USA” on Sunday in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and appeared with the president Monday night in Missouri.

In Indiana and again in Missouri, Trump invited White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and counselor Kellyanne Conway on stage to speak along with his daughter Ivanka Trump.

Fox News personality Sean Hannity and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh served as “special guests” at the final rally, according to Trump’s campaign, though Hannity insisted on Twitter he would only be “covering (the) final rally for my show.” Trump, however, did call Hannity to the stage.

In a Monday tweet, he warned that law enforcement was “strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting).”

Whatever the outcome, Trump made clear he knew his political future was on the line.

“In a sense, I am on the ticket,” he told a raucous crowd in Cleveland.

He warned supporters on the telephone town hall to get out and vote because “the press is very much considering it a referendum on me and us as a movement.”

Election Day: Nothing is certain

Republicans expressed confidence in their narrow Senate majority but feared the House was slipping away.

Democrats were laser-focused on health care as they predicted victories that would break up the GOP’s monopoly in Washington and state governments.

“They’ve had two years to find out what it’s like to have an unhinged person in the White House,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who leads the Democratic Governors Association. “It’s an awakening of the Democratic Party.”

Democrats could derail Trump’s legislative agenda for the next two years should they win control of the House or the Senate. They would also claim subpoena power to investigate Trump’s personal and professional shortcomings.

Some Democrats have already vowed to force the release of his tax returns. Others have pledged to pursue impeachment, although removal from office is unlikely so long as the GOP controls the Senate or even maintains a healthy minority.

Democrats’ fate depends upon a delicate coalition of infrequent voters — particularly young people and minorities — who traditionally shun midterm elections.

Democrats are drawing strength from women and college-educated voters in general, who swung decidedly against Trump since his election. Polling suggests the Republican coalition is increasingly older, whiter, more male.

Democrats boast record diversity on the ballot.

Three states could elect their first African-American governors, while several others are running LGBT candidates and Muslims. A record number of women are also running for Senate, House, governorships and state legislative seats.

“The vast majority of women voters are angry, frustrated and they are really done with seeing where the Republican Party is taking them, particularly as it related to heath care and civility,” said Stephanie Schriock, who leads EMILY’s List, a group that help elect Democratic women. “You’re going to see the largest gender gap we’ve ever seen.”

The political realignment, defined by race, gender and education, could re-shape U.S. politics for a generation. The demographic shifts also reflect each party’s closing argument.

While the economy continues to thrive, President Trump has spent much of the campaign’s final days railing against a caravan of Latin American immigrants seeking asylum at the U.S. border. He dispatched more than 5,000 troops to the region, suggesting soldiers would use lethal force against migrants who throw rocks, before later reversing himself.

Democrats, meanwhile, have beat their drum on health care.

“Health care is on the ballot,” former President Barack Obama told Democratic volunteers in Virginia. “Health care for millions of people. You vote, you might save a life.”

Democrats need to pick up two dozen seats to claim the House majority.

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.