Against the backdrop of a bitterly divided Congress and an angry and frustrated electorate, the most expensive midterm election in history finally comes to a climax Tuesday as America votes on 37 Senate seats and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
Here are five things to watch as the day plays out:
218 is the number: Republicans need a net gain of 39 seats to reach the 218-seat majority needed to control the House. While most experts believe they’ll win control of the chamber, it remains to be seen how big a margin they might have when the new Congress is sworn in next year.
Republicans are also expected to make gains in the Senate but come up short of the 10 seats they need to win control there.
If Republicans gain control of the House, look for them to take steps to try to roll back portions of health care reform; extend the Bush-era tax cuts, if the current Congress doesn’t when it returns after the election; write legislation for targeted tax credits for small businesses, which they believe will spur job growth; and trim the federal budget by as much as $150 billion.
But without control of the Senate, they’ll need Democrats there to vote with them to get bills passed. And then they’ll need the signature of President Obama, who opposes at least parts of that agenda.