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GOP regains House majority

Nov. 3, 2010

By David Espo
Associated Press

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.

On a night of triumph, Republicans fell short in their effort to gain control of the Senate and take full command of Congress, although they picked up at least six seats. They failed in an attempt to defeat Majority Harry Reid in Nevada, winner in an especially costly and brutal race in a year filled with them.

Boehner and his Republicans needed to gain 40 seats for a House majority, and they got them. They led for 11 more.

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

Among the House Democrats who tasted defeat was Rep. Tom Perriello, a first-termer for whom Obama campaigned just before the election.

Obama was at the White House as the returns mounted, a news conference on his Wednesday schedule.

In Senate races, tea party favorites Rand Paul in Kentucky and 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.

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 seemed near an end.

With unemployment at 9.6 percent nationally, interviews with voters revealed an extraordinarily sour electorate, stressed financially and poorly disposed toward the president, the political parties and the federal government.

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.

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 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.