Americans vote today in midterm elections that could change the balance of political power here, with Democrats seemingly set to recapture the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years, and Republicans hoping to hang on to their control of the Senate, albeit with a sharply reduced majority.
As the campaign reached its climax, both parties poured money, workers and their star attractions - among them Bill Clinton for Democrats and First Lady Laura Bush for Republicans - to tilt the most closely fought contests.
Sometimes, local issues are uppermost in off-year elections. But these midterms, however, have been dominated by national issues, first and foremost the ever-more unpopular war in Iraq. In that sense, they have become a referendum on President George Bush, even though his name is not on the ballot.
Events of the past few days have injected new uncertainty into the proceedings. Some analysts believe the death sentence handed down at the weekend against Saddam Hussein could make disillusioned Republican voters feel better about the Iraq war, whose shadow has dogged Republicans everywhere.
Mr Bush and other top Republican leaders have been trumpeting the successes of the economy, as highlighted by last week's drop in the jobless rate to a five-year low. They have also accused Democrats of spinelessness on Iraq, and weakness in the war on terrorism. Article continues....