For months, Republicans have been predicting that they were on track to make major gains in the midterm elections, and on Tuesday voters proved them right by handing the GOP major wins in the House of Representatives, as well as in governor’s mansions and state houses across the country.
The most crucial pickups for the Republicans were in the House of Representatives, where Fox News projected that the GOP rolled up 55 wins for a commanding 239 seats to the Democrats’ 183, more than enough to help set the agenda for the next two years.
That means that after becoming the first female Speaker of the House in 2007, Democrat Nancy Pelosi will step down in January to make way for a Republican speaker, which will more than likely be Ohio’s John Boehner. “The American people’s voice was heard at the ballot box,” a sometimes-emotional Boehner said on Tuesday night. “Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington … a repudiation of big government … and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people. … We have real work to do, and this is not the time for celebration.” The New York Times reported that President Obama watched election returns late into the night at the White House and called Boehner after midnight to offer his congratulations.
Polls indicated that the red tide at the ballot box was spurred by voter discontent with how President Obama and the Democratic leadership of Congress have handled the financial crisis, a distaste for the Democratic health care law and fears that government spending is out of control. Despite talk of repealing the health care law from a number of Republican candidates, experts predicted that it was unlikely to be scrapped because of a number of popular provisions in the bill, as well as the reality of Democratic control of the Senate and a certain veto from the president.
In one of the most closely watched and bitterly fought Senate races in the country, Democratic majority leader Harry Reid barely escaped a challenge from Sharron Angle, a loss that could have helped tip the balance of power in the Senate towards Republicans as well. In all, Republicans picked up at least six Democratic seats in the Senate, including the one formerly held by President Obama in Illinois and two claimed by rising-star Tea Party candidates, Florida’s Marco Rubio and Kentucky’s Rand Paul.
They did not, however, notch enough wins to take control of the Senate, which will stay in Democratic hands thanks to a slim majority. Though a few Senate races are still outstanding in Washington, Colorado and Alaska, Democrats have secured 51 seats in the 100-seat chamber.
In South Carolina, Nikki Haley became that state’s first female governor, while California voters decided against controversial ballot measure Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana possession and cultivation for adults over 21. In all, Republicans appeared to have picked up 10 governorships previously held by Democrats, including those in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Wyoming, Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.
Some Democrats won governorships, however: Former California Governor Jerry Brown defeated billionaire ex-eBay chief Meg Whitman, who spent more than $100 million of her own fortune in the race, and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo — son of former Governor Mario Cuomo — easily defeated erratic Republican challenger Carl Paladino to take the New York contest.
The still-undecided vote in Alaska could also become historic if write-in candidate Senator Lisa Murkowski is able to defeat Republican nominee Joe Miller to become only the second person to win a write-in Senate campaign. Murkowski, also a Republican, was leading at press time, but it could be days or even weeks before final results are confirmed. If Murkowski wins, it would be another repudiation of candidates endorsed by former half-term Alaska governor and 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
Among her 60 endorsements, Palin had also thrown her weight behind losing Senate races from Nevada’s Angle, Delaware’s Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell, California’s Carly Fiorina and West Virginia’s John Raese as well as Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo.