WASHINGTON -- Republicans reaped a windfall from independentvoters and tea party activists to seize control of the House inmidterm elections, gained seats in the Senate and served noticeWednesday they will confront President Barack Obama with aconservative agenda to cut government and spur private-sector jobs.
"We've been given a second chance and a golden opportunity,"Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, No. 2 Republican in the House, saidas his party prepared to usher in an era of divided government. Hecalled the outcome a rejection of Obama more than an endorsement ofthe GOP, cautioning fellow Republicans they must to work to winpublic confidence.
"People want to see results," he said on CBS's "The EarlyShow." "They want to see the government go on a diet just likethey have."
Republicans scored the biggest party turnover in more than 70years Tuesday with their win in the House and, in doing so, willdethrone Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi - a prime target of theircampaign - who had crashed a political glass ceiling and madehistory with her elevation to speaker four years ago.
Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, overcame atea party challenge from Republican Sharron Angle in one of theelection's most brutally fought races.
Reid said Wednesday the two parties now will have to worktogether and Republicans cannot be merely obstructionist. "Justsaying no doesn't do the trick," he said on ABC's "Good MorningAmerica."
But Republican Rand Paul, who won a Kentucky Senate seat in arace powered by tea party support, said "debate is healthy."
He told NBC's "Today" show: "People complain a lot aboutgridlock but whenever you analyze government, federal government orstate government, it seems like the most fiscally conservativegovernment is always divided government."
Earlier, Obama called Ohio Rep. John Boehner, the Housespeaker-in-waiting, to congratulate him. He also spoke with SenateRepublican leader Mitch McConnell and top Democrats in a series ofconversations that reflected the shifting balance of power.
The Republican leaders penciled in a late-morning newsconference, to be followed a short while later by Obama's ownmeeting with reporters at the White House.
Incomplete returns showed the GOP picked up at least 60 Houseseats and led for four more, far in excess of what was needed for amajority. About two dozen races remained too close to call.
On their night of triumph, Republicans also gained at least sixSenate seats, and tea party favorites Paul in Kentucky, Mike Lee inUtah and Marco Rubio in Florida were among their winners.
Not all the tea party insurgents won. Christine O'Donnell lostbadly in Delaware, for a seat that Republican strategists oncecalculated would be theirs with ease. And in Nevada, Reiddispatched Angle in an especially costly and contentious campaignin a year filled with them.
His win left three races still unresolved - in Colorado,Washington and Alaska, where Sen. Lisa Murkowski ran as a write-incandidate after losing the Republican nomination earlier this fall.
The GOP also wrested 10 governorships from the Democrats, Ohioand Pennsylvania among them, and gave two back, California andHawaii.
In New York, Andrew Cuomo won the office his father, Mario, heldfor three terms. And in California, Jerry Brown was successful inhis bid for a comeback to the governor's office he occupied for twoterms more than a quarter-century ago.
The biggest win by far was the House, a victory made all themore remarkable given the drubbing Republicans absorbed at thehands of Democrats in the past two elections. Their comeback wasaided by independents, who backed GOP candidates for the first timesince 2004, by a margin of 55 percent to 39 percent. Women backedDemocrats 49-48, after favoring them by a dozen points in recentelections.
The takeaways came in bunches - five Democratic-held seats eachin Pennsylvania and Ohio and three in Florida and Virginia.Incumbents sent to defeat included three committee chairmen, IkeSkelton in Missouri, James Oberstar in Minnesota and John Spratt inSouth Carolina, as well as Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania, inCongress more than a quarter-century.
Democrats conceded nothing while they still had a chance."Let's go out there and continue to fight," Pelosi exhortedsupporters in remarks before television cameras while the pollswere still open in much of the country.
But not long after she spoke, Democratic incumbents in bothhouses began falling, and her own four-year tenure as the firstfemale speaker in history was doomed. She gave no indication of herown plans.
"We must all strive to find common ground to support the middleclass, create jobs, reduce the deficit and move our nationforward," she said in a statement.
Efforts to revitalize the economy top the list, and Republicansalso campaigned calling for spending cuts to reduce deficits,extension of expiring tax cuts for all and repeal of Obama'scherished health care bill - all areas ripe for confrontation inthe months ahead.
With unemployment at 9.6 percent nationally, interviews withvoters revealed an extraordinarily sour electorate, stressedfinancially and poorly disposed toward the president, the politicalparties and the federal government.
Sen.-elect Paul, appearing Tuesday night before supporters inBowling Green, Ky., declared, "We've come to take our governmentback."
About four in 10 voters said they were worse off financiallythan two years ago, according to exit polls and pre-electionsurveys. More than one in three said their votes were an expressionof opposition to Obama. More than half expressed negative viewsabout both political parties. Roughly 40 percent of votersconsidered themselves supporters of the conservative tea partymovement. Less than half said they wanted the government to do moreto solve problems.
Republicans were certain of at least six Senate pickups,including the seat in Illinois that Obama resigned to becomepresident. Rep. Mark Kirk won there, defeating Alexi Giannoulias.
Democratic Sens. Russell Feingold in Wisconsin and BlancheLincoln in Arkansas were turned out of office. In addition,Republicans scored big in races for Democratic seats withoutincumbents on the ballot. Former Rep. Pat Toomey won a close racein Pennsylvania, North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven won easily there,and former Sen. Dan Coats breezed in a comeback attempt for theIndiana seat he voluntarily gave up a dozen years ago.
Democrats averted deeper losses when Gov. Joe Manchin won inWest Virginia - after pointedly distancing himself from Obama - forthe unexpired portion of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd's term, andAttorney General Richard Blumenthal was victorious in Connecticut,dispatching Linda McMahon, former CEO of World WrestlingEntertainment. Sen. Barbara Boxer was elected to a fourth term inCalifornia, overcoming a challenge from Carly Fiorina.
The GOP gubernatorial gains came after a campaign in which theirparty organization spent more than $100 million, nearly double whatDemocrats had.
Among the incumbents who fell were Ted Strickland in Ohio,defeated by former Rep. John Kasich, and Chet Culver in Iowa, loserto former Gov. Terry Branstad.
In a footnote to the brutal politics of the campaign,Republican-turned- independent Lincoln Chafee was elected governorof Rhode Island. Obama campaigned in the state in the campaign'sfinal week. But he declined to endorse the Democratic candidate,Frank Caprio, out of what the White House said was respect forChafee, who had endorsed the president in his own presidential racetwo years ago.
A Republican takeover of the House ushers in a new era ofdivided government after two years in which Obama and fellowDemocrats pushed through an economic stimulus bill, a landmarkhealth care measure and legislation to rein in Wall Street afterthe near collapse of the economy in 2008.
Paul's triumph in Kentucky completed an improbable rise for aneye surgeon making his first race. He drew opposition from theRepublican Party establishment when he first launched his bid, thenstruggled to adjust to a statewide race with Attorney General JackConway.
Rubio, also running with tea party support, won with 49 percentof the vote in a three-way race in Florida, months after he forcedGov. Charlie Crist to leave the Republican Party and run as anindependent. Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek ran third.
But a third tea party-backed candidate, O'Donnell, who went froma virtual unknown to primary winner to fodder for late-nightcomedians in the span of a few months, lost overwhelmingly toDemocrat Chris Coons in Delaware. Republicans had counted on takingthe seat from the Democrats early this year, but that was beforeO'Donnell defeated veteran Rep. Mike Castle in a September primary.Democrat John Carney easily won the seat that was Castle's fornearly 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 administrationofficial Rob Portman won a seat in Ohio, and Rep. Jerry Moran wonin Kansas and Rep. Roy Blunt in Missouri.
Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont was re-elected to hisseventh term and Barbara Mikulski her fifth. New York Sens. CharlesSchumer and Kirsten Gillibrand also won, as did Sen. Ron Wyden inOregon and Boxer in California In Hawaii, Democratic Sen. DanielInouye was elected for a ninth time to the seat he has held since1962.
Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who won a second term in SouthCarolina, has been working to establish a nationwide standing amongconservatives. He was instrumental in supporting tea partychallengers in several primaries this spring and summer at a timethe GOP establishment was backing other candidates.
In Alabama, Sen. Richard Shelby was re-elected easily, as wereRepublican Sens. Tom Coburn in Oklahoma, Richard Burr in NorthCarolina, John Thune in South Dakota, Johnny Isakson in Georgia,David Vitter in Louisiana, John McCain in Arizona, Chuck Grassleyin Iowa and Mike Crapo in Idaho.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times