The most expensive midterm elections in history finally take place Tuesday as voters decide who goes to Congress and governors' offices.
With all predictions, the election is considered a referendum on both the Democratic-controlled Congress and President Obama's first two years in office.
Polls indicate a dissatisfied electorate could clean house -- literally -- by tossing out the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and possibly doing the same in the Senate.
Losses by the governing party are common in the first midterm election it faces, but the shift Tuesday could rival or match historic levels dating back decades.
Unemployment of 9.6 percent amid a slow recovery from economic recession has been the dominant issue, with Republicans accusing Obama and Democrats of pushing through expensive policies that have expanded government without solving the problem.
Obama has led Democrats in defending his record, saying steps such as the economic stimulus bill and auto industry bailout were necessary to prevent a depression, while health care reform and Wall Street reform will lay the foundation for sustainable future growth.
The long and bitter campaign season will cost more than $3.5 billion -- the most expensive non-presidential vote ever, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, a watchdog group.
With around 100 of the 435 House seats at stake considered "in play," or competitive, the anti-Democratic mood is predicted to result in big Republican gains.
On the Senate side, where 37 of the 100 seats are being contested, the majority will be decided by key races in Nevada, Washington and a few other states where Democratic incumbents face strong challenges.
Republicans need to win an additional 39 seats to claim the House majority, and 10 more Senate seats to overtake Democrats there.
A national poll released Monday showed the number of Americans who say things are going badly in the country -- 75 percent -- is higher than it has been on the eve of any midterm election since the question was first asked in the mid-1970s.
Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist who worked for the last Republican House speaker, Dennis Hastert, put it bluntly: "It's been a hostile atmosphere, but it will be hostile on nitroglycerin."
Ohio Republican Rep. John Boehner is expected to be the new House speaker if the GOP wins control of the chamber. He already has signaled little appetite to negotiate with the White House or congressional Democrats, saying last week that "this is not a time for compromise."
Boehner and other conservatives say the top priorities must be spending cuts to try to balance the budget and job creation to spur the economy. However, they also advocate extending Bush-era tax cuts for everyone at a cost of $4 trillion over the next decade.
In the Senate, legislative gridlock is likely if Republicans strengthen their current minority of 41 seats. Obama and Democrats accuse Senate Republicans of using obstruction tactics as a political tool, showing the distrust and animosity that already exists.
Democrats are also wary of a recent comment by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who told the National Journal, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
The list of states that will gain or lose seats is released in December. However, Election Data Services issued estimates based on preliminary census figures that indicated Texas will gain four seats, Florida will gain two, and Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah and Washington will each gain one. The estimates also indicate Ohio and New York will lose two seats, and Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will each lose one.
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