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Republicans clean House

by David Espo
| November 3, 2010 9:00 PM

WASHINGTON - Resurgent Republicans won control of the House and cut deeply into the Democrats' majority in the Senate in momentous midterm elections shadowed by recession, ushering in a new era of divided government certain to complicate the final two years of President Barack Obama's term.

House Speaker-in-waiting John Boehner, voice breaking with emotion, declared shortly before midnight Tuesday that the results were "a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people."

Obama monitored returns at the White House, then telephoned Boehner with congratulations in a call that underscored the power shift.

Incomplete returns showed the GOP picked up at least 57 House seats - the biggest party turnover in more than 70 years - and led for eight more, far in excess of the 40 they needed for a majority. Among the losers was Rep. Tom Perriello, a first-termer from Virginia for whom Obama campaigned just before the election.

On a night of triumph, Republicans also gained at least six Senate seats, and tea party favorites Rand Paul in Kentucky, Mike Lee in Utah and Marco Rubio in Florida were among their winners. But Christine O'Donnell lost badly in Delaware, for a seat that Republican strategists once calculated would be theirs with ease. And they lost the nation's most closely watched race, in Nevada, where Majority Leader Harry Reid was a winner in an especially costly and brutal campaign in a year filled with them.

The GOP also wrested nine governorships from the Democrats, Ohio and Pennsylvania among them. In New York, Andrew Cuomo won the office his father, Mario, held for three terms. And in California, Jerry Brown was successful in his bid for a comeback to the governor's office he occupied for two terms more than a quarter-century ago.

The biggest win was the House, a victory made all the more remarkable given the drubbing Republicans absorbed at the hands of Democrats in 2006 and again in 2008.

The takeaways came in bunches - five Democratic-held seats each in Pennsylvania and Ohio and three in Florida and Virginia.

Democrats conceded nothing while they still had a chance. "Let's go out there and continue to fight," Speaker Nancy Pelosi exhorted supporters in remarks before television cameras while the polls were still open in much of the country.

But not long after she spoke, Democratic incumbents in both houses began falling, and her own four-year tenure as the first female speaker in history was doomed. She gave no indication of her own plans.

Sen.-elect Paul, appearing Tuesday night before supporters in Bowling Green, Ky., declared, "We've come to take our government back."

About four in 10 voters said they were worse off financially than two years ago, according to preliminary exit poll results and pre-election surveys. More than one in three said their votes were an expression of opposition to Obama. More than half expressed negative views about both political parties. Roughly 40 percent of voters considered themselves supporters of the conservative tea party movement. Less than half said they wanted the government to do more to solve problems.

Republicans were certain of at least six Senate pickups, including the seat in Illinois that Obama resigned to become president. Rep. Mark Kirk won there, defeating Alexi Giannoulias.

Democratic Sens. Russell Feingold in Wisconsin and Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas were turned out of office.

In addition, Republicans scored big in races for Democratic seats without incumbents on the ballot. Former Rep. Pat Toomey won a close race in Pennsylvania, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven won easily there, and former Sen. Dan Coats breezed in a comeback attempt for the Indiana seat he voluntarily gave up a dozen years ago.

"Republicans will continue to stand up for the American people and for the priorities they voted for today, and we are hopeful that the administration and Democrat leaders will change course," Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said in a written statement.

Democrats averted deeper losses when Gov. Joe Manchin won in West Virginia - after pointedly distancing himself from Obama - for the unexpired portion of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's term, and Attorney General Richard Blumenthal was victorious in Connecticut, dispatching Linda McMahon, former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. Sen. Barbara Boxer was elected to a fourth term in California, overcoming a challenge from Carly Fiorina.

The GOP gubernatorial gains came after a campaign in which their party organization spent more than $100 million, nearly double what Democrats had.

Among the incumbents who fell were Ted Strickland in Ohio, defeated by former Rep. John Kasich, and Chet Culver in Iowa, loser to former Gov. Terry Branstad.

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