Americans have started delivering their verdict on Barack Obama in mid-term elections that look set to take control of Congress away from his Democrats.
The latest opinion polls suggest Republicans will take control of the lower house and may even walk off with the Senate. To lose one house would be a blow for Obama. To lose both could cripple the rest of his presidency.
But some analysts say the opinion polls may be misleading. Vote strategist Michael McDonald believes early ballot-casting offers some hope for Democrats:
“The surprise at this point is that more Democrats have voted earlier than Republicans. One of the storylines in this election is that Republicans are more enthusiastic than the Democrats. And if there was an enthusiasm gap towards Republicans you might have expected more Republicans to vote than Democrats,” he says.
The Republican campaign has been dominated by the Tea Party movement, a conservative, right-wing group that is hoping to take apart Obama’s economic and healthcare reforms.
Some Democrats hope to benefit from this, believing Tea Party candidates may be a turn-off for independent voters and moderate Republicans.