ELECTION 2104: SEEING RED — Republicans surge to control Senate, House
Exit poll: Nation in a funk turns to Republicans
WASHINGTON — The glum voters who handed Republicans full control of Congress on Tuesday feel the U.S. is stagnating under President Barack Obama’s leadership but put little faith in politicians of either party.
Most voters leaving polling places said they don’t have much trust in government, feel the nation is off on the wrong track and believe life will be worse for the next generation. Those feeling pessimistic were more likely to vote for Republican congressional candidates.
Above all, voters worried about the economy, preliminary exit polls show. That also helped Republicans take control of the Senate and add to their dominance in the House.
People who said their own financial situation grew worse in the past two years voted for Republican congressional candidates by a 2-1 margin.
In Concord, New Hampshire, Julie Votaw said she voted a straight Republican ticket as a protest against what she sees as a lack of leadership from the White House.
“I want to send a statement to the Obama administration that I’m very upset,” the 50-year-old homemaker said, adding: “I just feel like no one is in control.”
Overall, more than half of voters disapproved of the way Obama is handling his job.
Republican candidates had to overcome voters’ displeasure with their own party leaders. More than a third of those who voted for a Republican House candidate were dissatisfied or even angry with GOP leaders in Congress. A quarter of Democratic voters were similarly upset with Obama.
“I feel we need a change in Washington, somehow, someway,” said Jodi Beauchene, 44, a food merchandiser in Fargo, North Dakota, who turned to the Libertarian congressional candidate because she’s fed up with both major parties.
What’s on voters’ minds:
ISSUES CUT BOTH WAYS
Preliminary poll results show voters embracing some Republican ideas. Just over half think the government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. About two-thirds feel the nation is seriously off on the wrong track — slightly more than thought that when Republicans won back control of the House in 2010.
On many issues overshadowed by the economy, however, most voters take positions that align more with the Democratic Party.
A majority favor offering immigrants who are in the country illegally a way to stay. A little more than half think abortion ought to be legal in most cases, and most of the voters consider climate change a serious problem.
Nearly two-thirds think the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy, a common theme among Democratic candidates.
Health care complaints came from both sides. People who said health care is their top issue were about as likely to say Obama’s overhaul didn’t go far enough as to say it went too far. Overall, those people tended to vote Democratic.
People who said either immigration or foreign policy was their top issue tended to vote Republican.
IT’S THE ECONOMY, STILL
The economy remains the big issue for more than 4 in 10 voters, who rank it ahead of health care, immigration or foreign policy.
Despite the stock market’s recovery and improvements in hiring, most say the U.S. economy is stagnating or even getting worse these days. Those voters were much more likely to vote for Republican congressional candidates.
About a third say the economy is improving, and they strongly backed Democrats.
A big reason voters feel glum: Almost half say their own family’s financial situation hasn’t improved much over the past two years, and a fourth say it’s gotten worse.
Still, the number who say their family’s finances are better has improved from 2010, when Americans were still reeling from the recession. At that time, only 15 percent said their family’s outlook had improved. About 3 in 10 people say things are better today.
WHO VOTED HOW
White voters favored Republicans by a 20-point margin. Two-thirds of Hispanics voted Democratic in House races, and black voters were overwhelmingly for the Democrats.
As usual, men leaned Republican while women leaned Democratic. Democrats lost some of the female support they held in the 2012 presidential race, but did better among women than in the 2010 midterms.
Republicans did better among married people, whether male or female, and rural dwellers.
Single women and city dwellers were especially Democratic.
Regular churchgoers favored Republicans, while those who never attend religious services overwhelmingly voted for Democrats.
Voters with incomes under $50,000 generally voted for Democrats, while those who earn more tended to support Republicans.
The survey of 18,937 voters nationwide was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 281 precincts Tuesday, as well as 3,113 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
REPUBLICANS SURGE TO CONTROL SENATE
WASHINGTON — Riding a powerful wave of voter discontent, resurgent Republicans captured control of the Senate and tightened their grip on the House Tuesday night in elections certain to complicate President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.
Republican Mitch McConnell led the way to a new Senate majority, dispatching Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky after a $78 million campaign of unrelieved negativity. Voters are “hungry for new leadership. They want a reason to be hopeful,” said the man now in line to become majority leader and set the Senate agenda.
Two-term incumbent Mark Pryor of Arkansas was the first Democrat to fall, defeated by freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado was next, defeated by Rep. Cory Gardner. Sen. Kay Hagan also lost, in North Carolina, to Thom Tilllis, the speaker of the state House.
Republicans also picked up seats in Iowa, West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana, where Democrats retired. They had needed a net gain of six seats in all to end a Democratic majority in place since 2006.
With dozens of House races uncalled, Republicans had picked up nine seats in Democratic hands, and given up only one.
A net pickup of 13 would give them more seats in the House than at any time since 1946.
Obama was at the White House as voters remade Congress for the final two years of his tenure — not to his liking. With lawmakers set to convene next week for a postelection session, he invited the leadership to a meeting on Friday.
A shift in control of the Senate will likely result in a strong GOP assault on budget deficits, additional pressure on Democrats to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Obama’s signal domestic accomplishment and a bid to reduce federal regulations.
Obama’s ability to win confirmation for lifetime Supreme Court and other judicial appointments could also suffer.
Speaker John Boehner, in line for a third term as head of the House, said the new Republican-controlled Congress would vote soon in the new year on the “many common-sense jobs and energy bills that passed the Republican-led House in recent years with bipartisan support but were never even brought to a vote by the outgoing Senate majority.”
Legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada is likely among them.
There were 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot, and several incumbents struggled against challengers. Tom Wolf captured the Pennsylvania statehouse for the Democrats, defeating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett. Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn lost in Illinois, Obama’s home state.
In a footnote to one of the year’s biggest political surprises, college professor Dave Brat was elected to the House from Virginia, several months after he defeated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.
House Republicans defeated 19-term Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall in West Virginia, beat Rep. John Barrow in Georgia and picked up a seat vacated by a lawmaker in North Carolina.
After years of a sluggish economic recovery and foreign crises aplenty, the voters’ mood was sour.
Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the country was seriously on the wrong track. Only about 30 percent said it was generally going in the right direction.
More than four in ten voters disapproved of both Obama and Congress, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.
Still, a majority of those polled supported several positions associated with Democrats or Obama rather than Republicans — saying immigrants in the country illegally should be able to work, backing U.S. military involvement against Islamic State fighters, and agreeing that climate change is a serious problem.
No matter which party emerged with control of the Senate, a new chapter in divided government was inevitable in a nation marked by profound unease over the future and dissatisfaction with its political leaders.
Several Senate races were close, a list that — surprisingly — included Virginia.
There, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner held a narrow lead over former Republican Party chairman and Bush administration official Ed Gillespie.
There was a little good news for Democrats in New Hampshire, where Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected after a difficult race against former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
But in Georgia, Michelle Nunn lost to businessman David Perdue, depriving the Democrats of their last best chance to take away a Republican seat. In Kansas, 78-year-old Sen. Pat Roberts fended off a challenge from independent Greg Orman, shutting off another avenue for the Democrats — their last.
Among the newly elected Republican senators was Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, the first member of her party to win a seat there in more than a half century.
State Sen. Jodi Ernst of Iowa also won, after a campaign that took off when she aired an ad saying she had learned how to castrate hogs as a girl growing up on a ranch.
In statehouse races, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York won a second term.
Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson was elected governor of Arkansas more than a decade after playing a prominent role in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment and trial, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott won a tough race for a new term.
Also winning new terms were Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican and potential presidential candidates in 2016.
Another possible White House hopeful, Republican Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, led his rival, Mary Burke.
Not even Democrats claimed a chance to topple the Republican House majority. They spent the campaign’s final days dispatching money to districts where incumbents suddenly found themselves in danger.
The elections’ $4 billion price tag spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year
GOP EXPANDS MAJORITY IN HOUSE
WASHINGTON — Republicans claimed a commanding majority in the House on Tuesday, pushing their dominance to near-historic levels as they dispatched the last white Democrats in the South and made inroads in Democratic strongholds nationwide.
The GOP easily won the 218 seats required and was on track to match or surpass the 246 seats they held in President Harry S. Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago. President Barack Obama will face an all-GOP Congress in his final two years as Republicans regained control of the Senate.
“We are humbled by the responsibility the American people have placed with us, but this is not a time for celebration,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.”
Democrats had a few bright spots, but their hopes of keeping losses to a minimum disappeared under the GOP onslaught.
Republicans tightened their grip on the South, a steady march since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Republican Evan Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican state senator, knocked out 19-term Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Republican businessman Rick Allen prevailed over another Southern Democrat, five-term Rep. John Barrow of Georgia.
Republicans capitalized on growing dissatisfaction with Obama as voters took out their frustration on the party controlling the White House. The pervasive malaise nationwide also dragged down Democrats.
Overall, the GOP gained 10 seats and counting; Democrats just one.
Aggressive in the midterms, Republicans claimed three Democratic seats in New York, upending six-term Rep. Tim Bishop on Long Island and Dan Maffei in the Syracuse area while winning an open seat upstate. The results were a blow to Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans also prevailed on other Democratic turf, easing out freshmen Bill Enyart and Brad Schneider in Illinois, Obama’s home state.
In one bright spot for the Democrats, Gwen Graham, daughter of a former senator and governor, Bob Graham, knocked out two-term Rep. Steve Southerland in a Florida Panhandle district. Southerland’s all-male fundraiser and quip about Graham attending lingerie parties doomed his re-election bid.
Obama’s low approval ratings, around 40 percent, were a drag on Democrats, as was the electorate’s unease with the Islamic State group threat, Ebola outbreak and job losses. Promising economic signs of a drop in the unemployment rate and cheaper gasoline failed to help the president’s party, which typically loses seats in midterm elections.
A solid GOP majority means Boehner can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed while Republicans would hold more committee seats to guide the party agenda.
Boehner raised $102 million to ensure that Republicans would tighten their grip on the House.
For Obama, a dozen House losses would be an ignominious distinction. The president, whose party lost 63 seats in 2010, would become the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, surpassing Truman’s 74.
National Democrats worked furiously to minimize the losses, outraising Republicans $172 million to $131 million. But they were outspent by GOP-leaning outside groups that targeted Democrats, pumping $7 million against first-term Rep. Ami Bera in California.
Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy contests in the country:
The election provided surprises with Republicans and Democrats pointing to the high number of undecided voters in the closing days. However, it’s hard to imagine any result topping the June primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to little-known and underfunded professor Dave Brat. Giant-slayer Brat cruised to victory in the Richmond-area district.
Cantor was the lone Jewish Republican in the House. At the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island, state lawmaker Lee Zeldin will be the House’s new Jewish Republican after defeating Bishop.
Republicans have struggled to win over female voters in presidential elections. In New York, 30-year-old Elise Stefanik, a former aide in President George W. Bush’s administration, captured an open seat and when sworn in this January will be the youngest House member.
Two-term Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who faces a 20-count indictment on tax fraud and other charges, beat back Brooklyn Democrat Domenic Recchia in a district straddling the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In Louisiana, Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who was caught on tape kissing a married aide, faltered in his re-election bid.
Former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards, a father of a 1-year-old son at age 87, headed for a Dec. 6 runoff as a distinct long-shot to win a GOP-held seat. Edwards spent eight years in prison on various charges including racketeering and extortion.
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