Political

Nov 2, 2010 10:05 PM by Staff

Republicans Gaining Seats in House

WASHINGTON (AP) - House control within reach, Republicans piled
up gains Tuesday night in a drive to forge a new conservative
majority midway through President Barack Obama's term. They added
Senate seats, as well, but seemed likely to fall short of taking
over.
"We've come to take our government back," Sen.-elect Rand Paul
declared to cheering supporters at a victory party in Bowling
Green, Ky., an early Republican winner on a night filled with them.
A Republican majority in the House would usher in a new era of
divided government as the nation struggles to emerge from the
shadow of the worst recession since the 1930s.
Among the House Democrats who tasted defeat was Rep. Tom
Perriello, a first-termer for whom Obama campaigned just before the
election.
In the Senate, Paul and tea party favorite Marco Rubio in
Florida coasted to easy Senate victories, overcoming months of
withering Democratic attacks on their conservative views. But
Christine O'Donnell lost badly in Delaware, for a seat that
Republican strategists once calculated would be theirs with ease.
Despite the Republicans' gains, a Senate majority seemed out of
reach.
But the GOP brimmed with confidence that it would pick up the 40
seats needed to take control of the House and install Rep. John
Boehner as the new speaker. "This is going to be a big day," he
said as he voted near his home in West Chester, Ohio. For those who
think the government is spending too much and bailing out too many,
he said, "This is their opportunity to be heard."
Democrats conceded nothing. "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.
Interviews with voters revealed an extraordinarily sour
electorate, stressed financially and poorly disposed toward the
president, the political parties and the federal government.
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.
The preliminary findings were based on Election Day and
pre-election interviews with more than 9,000 voters.
All 435 seats in the House were on the ballot, plus 37 in the
Senate. An additional 37 governors' races gave Republicans ample
opportunity for further gains halfway through Obama's term,
although Andrew Cuomo was elected in New York for the office his
father once held.
Republicans picked up their first Senate gain of the night in
Indiana, where former Sen. Dan Coats easily dispatched Rep. Brad
Ellsworth to win back the seat he voluntarily gave up a dozen years
ago.
Boozman's victory was their second, and North Dakota Gov. John
Hoeven added a third, winning an open seat long in Democratic
hands.
But Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin won in West Virginia 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.
Paul's triumph in Kentucky completed an improbable rise for an
eye surgeon making his first race. He drew opposition from the
Republican Party establishment when he first launched his bid, then
struggled to adjust to a statewide race with Attorney General Jack
Conway.
Rubio, also running with tea party support, was gaining about 50
percent of the vote in a three-way race in Florida, months after he
forced Gov. Charlie Crist to leave the Republican Party and run as
an independent. Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek was running third.
But a third tea party-backed candidate, O'Donnell, who went from
a virtual unknown to primary winner to fodder for late-night
comedians in the span of a few months, lost overwhelmingly to
Democrat Chris Coons in Delaware. Republicans had counted on taking
the seat from the Democrats early this year, but that was before
O'Donnell defeated veteran Rep. Mike Castle in a September primary.
Democrat John Carney easily won the seat that was Castle's for
nearly two decades.
Not all the Republican newcomers were party crashers.
In New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte won a Senate seat,
defeating Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes. Former Bush administration
official Rob Portman won a seat in Ohio, and Rep. Jerry Moran in
Kansas.
In a year of turmoil, there were incumbent senators in both
parties who won with ease.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was re-elected to his
seventh term and Barbara Mikulski her fifth. New York Sens. Charles
Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also won.
Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who won a second term in South
Carolina, has been working to establish a nationwide standing among
conservatives. He was instrumental in supporting tea party
challengers in several primaries this spring and summer at a time
the GOP establishment was backing other candidates.
In Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby was re-elected easily, as were
Republican Sens. Tom Coburn in Oklahoma, Richard Burr in North
Carolina, John Thune in South Dakota and Johnny Isakson in Georgia.
The president gave a series of radio interviews pleading with
Democratic supporters not to sit on the sidelines. "I know things
are still tough out there, but we finally have job growth again,"
he said in one. "It is all at risk if people don't turn out and
vote today." While Obama's name was not on the ballot, his record and
policies were. After nearly two years in power, he and
congressional Democrats were saddled politically with ownership of
an economy that was barely growing, 9.6 percent unemployment, a
high rate of home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies, the
residue of the worst recession since the 1930s.
"I will honestly say that I voted for him two years ago," said
Sally McCabe, 56, of Plymouth, Minn., stopping to cast her ballot
on her way to work. "And I want my vote back."
In Cleveland, Tim Crews, 42, said he measures Obama's
performance by the number of paying miles he drives in his delivery
van. His miles have tripled to 9,000 a month. Crews said of the
economy: "It's moving. I know, because I'm moving it." He voted
accordingly.
Republicans needed to pick up 40 seats to regain a House
majority they lost in 2006.
A Republican victory there would complicate Obama's ability to
enact his proposals over the next two years and possibly force him
to fight off attacks on health care legislation and other bills he
has signed into law.
Some of the biggest states elected governors, including
California, where Democrat Edmund G. Brown Jr., collided with Meg
Whitman in his attempted return to the office he left more than a
quarter-century ago.
In one of the year's marquee races, Democratic Gov. Ted
Strickland faced a strong challenge from former Rep. John Kasich in
his bid for a new term in Ohio.
With so many contested races, and a Supreme Court ruling
removing restrictions on political activity by corporations and
unions, the price tag for the elections ran to the billions.
Much of the money paid for television advertisements that
attacked candidates without letup, the sort of commercials that
voters say they disdain but that polls find are effective.
Obama traveled to 14 states in the final month, some twice, in a
bid to rekindle the enthusiasm of the young voters, liberals,
blacks and independents whose ballots propelled him to the White
House.
Not that Republicans didn't have problems of their own as the
campaign began. Their candidate recruitment was aimed at filling
spots on the ballot with well-known, experienced office holders.
The voters had other ideas, and made it clear quickly. In the
first of a series of shock waves, tea party rebels dumped
conservative three-term Sen. Bob Bennett at Utah's Republican
convention in May. By the time the primaries were finished, six
incumbents had fallen in both parties and both houses.
Senate Republicans made their peace with the rebels, necessary
if they were to harness their energy for the fall campaign. They
worked to soften the edges of candidates who had advocated
politically risky cuts in federal programs, questioned the wisdom
of civil rights laws or doubted the separation of church and state.
---
AP writers Thomas J. Sheeran in Cleveland, Rasha Madkour in
Miami, Wayne Parry in Bayville, N.J., Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton,
N.J., Mike Glover in Des Moines, Iowa, Thomas J. Sheeran in Parma
Heights, Ohio, Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis, Deepti Hajela in New
York and Mark S. Smith in Washington contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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