Republicans won big on November 2. Still, there were some bright spots for Democrats. Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives while Democrats held on to the Senate.
All 435 members of the House of Representatives were up for reelection. Representatives serve for two years. With a few races too close to call as of Wednesday, Republicans had captured at least 59 new seats. That is far more than the 40 new seats they needed to control the House in January. "With their voices, the American people are demanding a new way forward in Washington," said House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio. He is expected to become the House Speaker, or leader, when the new Republican majority takes over in January.
Democrats still control the United States Senate, where 37 of 100 seats were in play. Senators serve for six years. Republicans needed to gain 10 seats to be in the majority. But they fell short, picking up at least six seats. Democrats won big in Connecticut, New York and California.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid fought off a challenge from Sharron Angle, to win reelection in Nevada. "I've run in some tough elections no one thought I could win," Reid told supporters. "Tonight, Nevada chose to go forward, not backward."
In Alaska, a write-in candidate may have won. With 80% of the votes counted, Senator Lisa Murkowski appears to have earned 40% of the vote. That would be enough to beat challenger Joe Miller. Murkowski had lost the Republican Party's nomination to Miller. She asked supporters to write in her name on the ballot. The last write-in candidate to win any Senate seat was Strom Thurman of South Carolina in 1954. It could take weeks before all the votes are counted and the winner is determined in Alaska.
The Governor's House
Voters also chose governors in 37 of the 50 states. The party that controls the governor's position in each state is particularly important in the years before a presidential election. President Barack Obama traveled to 14 states—some twice—in the final month of the campaign. He hoped to help Democratic candidates. Democrats won big races in California, Colorado, Massachusetts and New York. But the party fell short in other key states, including Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
New Mexico, Oklahoma and South Carolina will get their first women governors. All three women are Republicans. In Oklahoma, Mary Fallin will take over. Susana Martinez will be the first Hispanic woman to hold New Mexico's top job. Nikki Haley won in South Carolina.
Looking Ahead to 2012
Midterm elections are often a rough measurement of the President's popularity. In 1994, during Bill Clinton's first term, Democrats lost 52 House seats and eight Senate seats. Republicans gained a majority in both Houses. In 2006, during George W. Bush's second term, Republicans lost 28 House seats and six Senate seats, giving Democrats control of both Houses.
Politicians—both Democrats and Republicans—already have their eyes on the next big election in 2012. For the next two years, they will work to sway voters. But can they work together for the good of the country?