WASHINGTON (AP/CBS) — Republicans marched steadily toward a House majority on Tuesday, ousting Democratic freshman and veterans in battleground districts in the East, South and Midwest.
And CBS News was projecting that when all the votes were counted, the Republicans would have regained control of the US House of Representatives.
The GOP defeated a crop of Democrats in districts won by Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential campaign, as voters expressed disillusion with President Barack Obama and economic anxiety. With polls closed on the East Coast, Republicans had scored key victories in Indiana, Florida, Virginia, Tennessee, and Texas and broken House Democrats’ monopoly in New England by defeating Rep. Carol Shea Porter in New Hampshire.
Overall, Republicans captured 12 seats formerly held by Democrats by mid-evening and opened leads against nearly three dozen more Democratic incumbents and were ahead in bids to claim more than a half-dozen seats left open by Democratic retirements. Democrats had taken only seat from the GOP, and lead for two other Republican seats.
“Tonight, it’s about one thing, and that is listening to the American people who are speaking to us all across thecountry,” said Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, the No. 2 Republican in charge of the party’s House campaign effort.
The GOP was racking up defeats among first-term Democrats including Florida Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson, and Virginia Reps. Glenn Nye and Tom Perriello, who campaigned Friday with Obama.
Democratic veterans were falling as well, including 10-term Rep. Chet Edwards in Texas and 14-term Rep. Rick Boucher of Virginia.
The GOP claimed a trio of Democratic seats in Tennessee, ousting four-term Rep. Lincoln Davis and capturing two seats left open by retirements.
Democrats struggled to hold their majority. In a rare bright spot, John Carney handily beat Republican Glen Urquhart in the race to succeed GOP Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s only House seat, which Castle left to unsuccessfully pursue a Senate seat.
And a handful of targeted Democrats heavily targeted by the GOP pulled through, including Reps. Betty Sutton of Ohio, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heath Shuler of North Carolina and John Yarmuth of Kentucky.
“Democratic turnout has been higher than projected,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the Democratic campaign chief. “We knew it would be challenging, but also knew people understood how high the stakes were in this election.”
But the few victories were eclipsed by the scope of potential Democratic defeats. First-termers were lagging in key races and some of the party’s old bulls were struggling to survive, like Rep. John Spratt of South Carolina.
With GOP voters energized and tea party-fueled grass-roots anger apparent across the country, the GOP was well-positioned to capture the 40 seats they would need for House control and had shots at claiming another 20 or more. Demoralized Democrats had solid chances to wrest fewer than a half-dozen seats from Republicans.
Voters went to the polls intensely worried about the economy and dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working. An Associated Press analysis of exit poll results found voters saying the economy eclipses any other issue as their top concern. They’re also expressing dissatisfaction with Obama and Congress, and they don’t have a favorable view of either political party.
In an ominous sign for Democrats, women — who typically give them a large edge — were about evenly split in House voting, and men were breaking decisively for Republicans.
House speaker Nancy Pelosi of California gathered with Democrats at a downtown hotel, her party bracing for a bloodbath — the only question being how severe.
Blocks away, Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio, in line to claim Pelosi’s job should his party make the expected gains, waited with GOP leaders, careful to avoid a party-like atmosphere at a time when voters appear fed up with both sides.
It was shaping up as a remarkable turnabout from 2008, when Obama helped propel Democrats to big gains in their House majority only two years after the 2006 wave that swept them to control. This year, few Democratic incumbents felt safe, least of all the 51 who claimed Republican seats over the last four years.
Strategists in both parties expected GOP successes that could rival the party’s 1994 wave to power, which handed them 52 seats and control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
High unemployment and disillusionment with Obama and his allies in Congress posed seemingly insurmountable challenges for dozens of Democratic candidates in all regions of the country, from freshmen to the most powerful veterans.
Democrats now control the House by a 255-178 margin, with two vacancies. All 435 seats are up for grabs.
The GOP had some four-dozen Democratic freshmen and second-termers on the defense in conservative and swing districts and was targeting another roughly 30 Democrats once thought to be safe or relatively so, plus more than a dozen seats left open by Democratic retirements.
The GOP didn’t expect a clean sweep. Strategists privately conceded that Democrats were likely to oust Republican Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao in New Orleans. Democrats were also targeting Hawaii GOP Rep. Charles Djou, and holding out hope of picking up open seats in Miami and the Chicago suburbs.
House candidates and party committees raised and spent tons of campaign cash, and Democrats had a slight edge. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $145 million to bankroll its candidates, compared with $121 million shelled out by the National Republican Congressional Committee. That’s nearly double what the Democratic campaign arm spent in the last election, and more than five times what the Republican counterpart did when the tables were turned.
GOP candidates poured a total of $419 million into their campaigns, while Democrats spent $421.5 million.
But Republican-allied outside groups skewed the playing field dramatically. They spent $189.5 million savaging Democratic candidates while independent groups skewering Republicans spent $89 million.
(Copyright 2010 by CBS and the Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)