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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Midterms are theoretically local and state elections, but Tuesday's contests add up to a remarkable snapshot of a quickly changing America: more women running than ever ... more Muslim Americans ... more Native Americans ... more veterans ... more teachers ... more millennials ... and more LGBTQ Americans.

With turnout expected to hit record levels, the results will tell us a lot about the type of candidate who matches up best against Trump in 2020.

Here are 6 things we're watching:

  1. Will either party find a way to arrest what The Wall Street Journal calls "The Yawning Divide"? White women with college degrees are turning rapidly Democratic, and white men are moving drastically the other way, "making both essentially unreachable by the opposing candidate."
  2. Will pollsters make a comeback after being stunned in 2016? The WashPost's Philip Bump reminds us that based on polling science, "If we held the election 20 times, in three of those elections, the Republicans would hold their [House] majority. Next Tuesday might be one of those three."
  3. Will young people vote more than in the past, after all the pleas, from the Parkland survivors to "Pod Save America"? The #MarchForOurLives and #RoadToChange activists traveled the country to try to counteract apathy among vote-eligible teens. It'd be a game-changer if they do, but Democratic strategists have their doubts.
  4. How big a swath of that record number of women candidates for House, Senate and governor — spurred by record number of women donors — turn into lawmakers? Many are challengers — always a daunting route. Christina Reynolds of EMILY's List told AP: "[R]egardless of what happens, women have shown that they are no longer happy with other people representing them and speaking for them."
  5. How blue is the wave? Republicans are favored to pick up several Dem open seats in western Pennsylvania and the Iron Range of Minnesota. But will a single Democratic House incumbent lose? Probably not. The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman tells me the nation's most vulnerable House Dem is Rep. Tom O´Halleran in Arizona. But he's still favored to hold his Trump-won seat.
  6. And from Jonathan Swan: If Democrats win control over the House by a slim margin (e.g., 5 to 10 seats), how tight will Nancy Pelosi’s grip be on power? There’ll be a ton of pressure for generational change, and much restlessness beyond those candidates who’ve already publicly said they won’t vote for Pelosi as Speaker. On her side: Pelosi is the perfect person to keep a rowdy House on track to investigate the heck out of the Trump administration. 

Be smart ... On Wednesday morning, we'll wake up with the next two to six years foretold:

  • Trump: triumphant or cornered?
  • Democrats: ascendant or humiliated?

Either way, we face a 2020 political season that will make this one seem civil.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - World

Biden seeks to reboot U.S. sanctions policy

Sanctions increased under Obama and dramatically under Trump. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

The Biden administration is rethinking the U.S. approach to sanctions after four years of Donald Trump imposing and escalating them.

The big picture: Sanctions are among the most powerful tools the U.S. has to influence its adversaries’ behavior without using force. But they frequently fail to bring down regimes or moderate their behavior, and they can increase the suffering of civilians and resentment of the U.S.

2 hours ago - World

Merkel's farewell spoiled by Poland crisis at EU summit

One last awkward EU "family photo." Photo: John Thys/AFP via Getty Images

Angela Merkel took up her vaunted mantle as Europe's crisis manager for what could be the last time tonight, as she urged the EU to find compromise in its showdown with Poland.

Why it matters: The European Commission has threatened to withhold over $40 billion in pandemic recovery funds after Poland's constitutional tribunal — stacked with loyalists from the ruling right-wing populist party — rejected the principle that EU law has primacy over national law.

Republicans who put it all on the line

Rep. Nancy Mace speaks with reporters after voting to hold Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A small contingent of House Republicans risked their political futures on Thursday, they say, in the name of constitutional responsibility.

Why it matters: The nine Republicans who voted to hold former Trump aide Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress are now in peril of becoming political pariahs. They've opened themselves up to potential primary challengers and public attacks from their party's kingmaker — former President Trump.