2010 U.S. Midterm Elections: G.O.P. Captures House, but Not Senate

As the last of the US midterm results pour in, the Republicans have recaptured the House of Representatives while the Democrats hang on to their Senate majority by a thread.

The Tea Party added a second Senate victory when Marco Rubio rode a wave of voter concern over the economy to win a three-way race for the Senate in Florida. Photo: Chip Litherland/The New York Times

The Republican Party has recaptured the House of Representatives from the Democrats and expanded their voice in the Senate in mid-term elections on Tuesday, delivering a stunning rebuke to President Barack Obama just two years after he won the White House.

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. They won at least 59 seats from the Democrats.

However, the Republican Party fell short of their ambitious target of the 10 seats needed to win the Senate, which would have given them total control of U.S. Congress.

The Democrats keep a narrow lead in the Senate, which will give the party considerable leverage against what is expected to be a barrage of Republican legislation from the House designed to unpick President Barack Obama’s achievements in his first two years.

Democratic Leader Senator Harry Reid of Nevada narrowly prevailed and his party hung onto control by winning hard-fought contests in California, Delaware, Connecticut and West Virginia.

But in the House, early in the evening the Republicans celebrated as Tea Party favourites Marco Rubio and Rand Paul won in Florida and Kentucky respectively. Two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by the Tea Party movement.

Rand Paul achieved the historic feat of becoming the first member of the anti-tax, small-government Tea Party member to win a Senate seat. In his victory speech, he proclaimed that “tonight there is a Tea Party tidal wave and we are sending a message of fiscal sanity, limited constitutional government and balanced budgets.”

Marco Rubio delivered a warning to the Republican leadership in Washington that the party had to learn from the mistakes made after it last won a majority in 1994, when it abandoned the principles of balanced budgets and small government.

“We make a grave mistake if we believe tonight these results will somehow embrace the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance. A second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be, not so long ago,” he said.

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

The president called Mr. Boehner shortly after midnight to offer his congratulations and to talk about the way forward as Washington prepares for divided government.

The most expensive midterm election campaign in the nation’s history, fueled 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.

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.

2010 U.S. Midterm Elections House Map. Photo: The New York Times

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 of the playing field, including in Florida’s 24th Congressional District, in which Sandy Adams defeated Representative Suzanne Kosmas; Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, where Mr. Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, lost to Morgan Griffith; and Texas’s 17th Congressional District, in which Mr. 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 Mr. Reid and other races. In Delaware, Chris Coons defeated Christine O’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.

2010 U.S. Midterm Elections Senate Map. Photo: The New York Times

But Democrats conceded that their plans to increase voter turnout did not meet expectations, party strategists said, and extraordinary efforts that Mr. Obama made in the final days of the campaign appeared to have borne little fruit.

The president flew to Charlottesville, Va., on Friday evening, for instance, in hopes of rallying Democrats to support Representative Tom Perriello, a freshman who supported every piece of the administration’s agenda, but he was defeated despite the president’s appeals to Democrats in a state that he carried two years ago.

In governors’ races, Republicans won several contests in the nation’s middle. They held onto governorships in Texas, Nebraska and South Dakota, and had seized seats now occupied by Democrats in Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas. Sam Brownback, a United States Senator and Republican, easily took the Kansas post that Mark Parkinson, a former Republican turned Democrat, is leaving behind.

Though Democrats, who before the election held 26 governors’ seats compared to 24 for the Republicans, were expected to face losses, there were also bright spots. In New York, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo easily defeated the Republican, Carl P. Paladino, even as Republicans were expected to pick up seats in the state legislature and the congressional delegation. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick won a second term.

As the election results rolled in, with Republicans picking up victories shortly after polls closed in states across the South, East and the Midwest, the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and other party leaders made urgent appeals through television interviews that there was still time for voters in other states to cast their ballots. [via NYTimes, BBC, Guardian (UK) and USA Today]

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.