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Republicans ride wave of voter discontent

Nov. 2: Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives yesterday and expanded their voice in the Senate, riding a wave of voter discontent as they dealt a setback to President Obama just two years after his triumphal victory.

A Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful Opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and government spending, delivered defeats to House Democrats from the northeast to the south and across the midwest. The tide swept aside dozens of lawmakers, regardless of their seniority or their voting records, upending the balance of power for the second half of Obama’s term.

But Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, narrowly prevailed and his party hung onto control by winning hard-fought contests in California, Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia. Republicans picked up at least six Democratic seats, including the one formerly held by Obama, and the party will welcome Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky to their ranks, two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by the Tea Party movement.

“The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is positioned to become the next speaker of the House. “We have real work to do, and this is not the time for celebration.”

The President, who watched the election returns with a small set of advisers at the White House, called Boehner shortly after midnight to offer his congratulations and to talk about the way forward as Washington prepares for divided government.

Republicans won at least 58 seats, not including those from some western states where ballots were still being counted, surpassing the 52 seats the party won in the sweep of 1994.

The most expensive midterm election campaign in the nation’s history, fuelled by a raft of contributions from outside interest groups and millions in donations to candidates in both parties, played out across a wide battleground that stretched from Alaska to Maine.

The Republican tide swept into statehouse races, too, with Democrats poised to lose the majority of governorships, particularly those in key presidential swing states, like Ohio, where Gov. Ted Strickland was defeated.

One after another, once-unassailable Democrats like Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Representatives Ike Skelton of Missouri, John Spratt of South Carolina, Rick Boucher of Virginia and Chet Edwards of Texas fell to little-known Republican challengers. “Voters sent a message that change has not happened fast enough,” said Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Republicans did not achieve a perfect evening, losing races in several states they had once hoped to win, including the Senate contests in Delaware and Connecticut, because some candidates supported by the Tea Party movement knocked out establishment candidates to win their nominations. But they did score notable victories in some tight races, like Pat Toomey’s Senate run in Pennsylvania.

Senator Reid said in a speech that he was “more determined than ever” after his victory. “I know what it’s like to get back on your feet.”

The outcome yesterday was nothing short of a remarkable comeback for Republicans two years after they suffered a crushing defeat in the White House and four years after Democrats swept control of the House and Senate. It places the party back in the driver’s seat in terms of policy, posing new challenges to Obama as he faces a tough two years in his term, but also for Republicans — led by Boehner — as he suddenly finds himself in a position of responsibility, rather than being simply the outsider.

In the House, Republicans found victories in most corners of the country, including five seats in Pennsylvania, five in Ohio, at least three in Florida, Illinois and Virginia and two in Georgia.

Democrats braced for the prospect of historic defeats, more than the 39 seats the Republicans needed to win control. Republicans reached their majority by taking seats east of the Mississippi even before late results flowed in from farther West.

Throughout the evening, in race after race, Republican challengers defeated Democratic incumbents, despite being at significant fund-raising disadvantages.

Republican-oriented independent groups invariably came to the rescue, helping level the playing field, including in Florida’s 24th Congressional District, in which Sandy Adams defeated Representative Suzanne Kosmas; Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, where Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, lost to Morgan Griffith; and Texas’s 17th Congressional District, in which Edwards, who was seeking his 11th term, succumbed to Bill Flores.

Democrats argued that the Republican triumph was far from complete, particularly in the Senate, pointing to the preservation of Reid and other races. In Delaware, Chris Coons defeated Christine ’Donnell, whose candidacy became a symbol of the unorthodox political candidates swept onto the ballot in Republican primary contests.

In West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, triumphed over an insurgent Republican rival to fill the seat held for a half-century by Senator Robert C. Byrd. And in California, Senator Barbara Boxer overcame a vigorous challenge from Carly Fiorina, a Republican.

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