WASHINGTON—Democrats won control of the House early Wednesday after a dozen years of Republican rule in a resounding repudiation of a war, a president and a scandal-scarred Congress.
"From sea to shining sea, the American people voted for change," declared Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the hard-charging California Democrat in line to become the nation's first female House speaker.
"Today we have made history," she said, "now let us make progress."
Lameduck Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., was elected to an 11th term, but several GOP officials said they expected him to step down as party leader and possibly even retire from Congress.
The White House made plans for President Bush to call the speaker-in-waiting, Pelosi, first thing in the morning; he will enter his final two years in office with at least half of Congress in the opposition party's hands.
"It's been kind of tough out there," Hastert said. Presidential spokesman Tony Snow observed: "It's not like a slap on the forehead kind of shock."
By 5:15 a.m. Wednesday, Democrats had won 228 seats, enough for control, and were leading for another 4, which would give them 232. Republicans, who hold 229 seats in the current House, won 193 and were leading in another 10, which would give them 203.
Democrats had captured 27 Republican-controlled seats, and no Democratic incumbent had lost thus far. Races were too close to call in more than a dozen seats, making it impossible to determine exactly how large the Democratic margin would be.
Still, 2006 already was an eerie reversal of 1994, when the GOP gained 54 seats in a wave that toppled Democrats after four decades. No Republican incumbent lost that year.
This time, Republicans fell from power in every region of the country -- conservative, liberal and moderate -- as well as in every type of district -- urban, rural and suburban. Exit polls showed middle class voters who fled to the GOP a dozen years ago appeared to return to the Democrats.
Casualties of a Democratic call for change, three GOP congressmen lost in Indiana, three more in Pennsylvania, two in New Hampshire, one in North Carolina, one in Kansas, one in California and more elsewhere. Democrats won open seats, which were held by Republicans, in New York, Ohio, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Iowa and Texas.
Scandals that have dogged Republicans appeared to hurt GOP incumbents even more than Bush's unpopularity and the nearly four-year-old war in Iraq.
Republicans surrendered the Texas seat of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who left the House after being charged in a campaign finance scheme, the Ohio seat once held by Bob Ney, who resigned after pleading guilty in a lobbying scandal, and the Florida district of Mark Foley, who stepped down after the disclosure that he sent sexually explicit messages to male congressional pages.
In Pennsylvania, Democrats defeated Curt Weldon in the fallout from a federal corruption investigation and Don Sherwood who admitted to a long-term affair with a much younger woman who says he choked her.
"Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take their country in a new direction, and that is exactly what we intend to do," Pelosi, who won an 11th term, told several hundred people celebrating in a Washington hotel ballroom.
A grandmother five times over, Pelosi vowed to restore integrity, civility and honesty to Capitol Hill and said: "Democrats promise to work together in a bipartisan way for all Americans."
As her remarks ended, U2's "Beautiful Day" blared and red, white and blue confetti drifted from above.
"You have given us a chance to turn this country around, and we'll give you the government that no longer lets you down." Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the head of the Democrats' House campaign, told the crowd.
Ethics woes, the war and overall anger toward Bush appeared to drive voters to the Democrats, according to surveys by The Associated Press and the television networks of voters as they left voting places. Several traditionally hard-fought demographic groups were choosing Democrats, including independents, moderates, and suburban women.