Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle was on the verge of being swept from Congress as part of a Republican surge in GOP strongholds from the Deep South to South Dakota that strengthened Republican control of the Senate and House.
Former representative John Thune, a telegenic South Dakota Republican who lost his Senate bid two years ago to Sen. Tim Johnson (D) by 524 votes, edged toward avenging that loss by knocking off a far larger target, the leader of the Democratic Party in the Senate.
Even before that victory, the Republicans had been racking up significant gains.
Republican Rep. Jim DeMint, a strong social and economic conservative, outdistanced South Carolina's education chief, Inez Moore Tenenbaum, grabbing a seat for the GOP that had been held by retiring Democratic Sen. Ernest F. Hollings.
After a slow start, Republican Rep. Richard Burr scored a come-from-behind victory over Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff of President Bill Clinton. Bowles's name recognition and well-funded campaign had allowed him to build a substantial lead in the early polls, but Burr ultimately put into the GOP column a seat vacated by Sen. John Edwards, as he sought the vice presidency.
The Democrats also lost the Senate seat vacated by conservative Democrat Zell Miller to five-year House veteran Johnny Isakson (R), according to news service projections. Isakson, a suburban Atlanta representative, handily defeated another House member, Denise L. Majette, who was Georgia's first black Senate candidate.
And Republican Rep. David Vitter took the Louisiana Senate seat being vacated by Democrat John Breaux, the Associated Press projected. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the Republican congressman held 52 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff against his Democratic opponents.
Cuban Floridian Mel R. Martinez, the president's former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, was poised to add to the Republican hold of the Senate with his narrow lead over the Sunshine State's education commissioner, Betty Castor.
Democratic rising star Barack Obama got one of those seats back, easily beating talk show host and conservative firebrand Alan Keyes to take a formerly Republican Senate seat in Illinois. The seat had been vacated by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald.
And Ken Salazar, Colorado's moderate Democratic attorney general, edged beer magnate Pete Coors to take a Republican seat vacated by retiring Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Republican Sen. Arlen Specter, who narrowly beat back a conservative challenger in the Pennsylvania primary season, was in a dogfight against Democratic Rep. Joseph M. Hoeffel.
But other Republican seats that Democrats had hopes to snatch appeared to have remained in the GOP fold.
After a hard-fought campaign, the GOP held onto the Senate seat vacated by Don Nickles, the former Republican whip, when conservative Tom Coburn beat back Democratic Rep. Brad Carson. Carson had led in the polls for much of the race, in part, because of missteps and controversial comments by Coburn, an obstetrician and former congressman. But a conservative state that overwhelmingly broke for the president also sent the Senate its second doctor and a staunch social conservative.
In Kentucky, Republican Sen. Jim Bunning -- once heavily favored -- narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Daniel Mongiardo. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Bunning, a former Hall of Fame pitcher, led by just under 17,000 votes.
In Alaska, Democrat Tony Knowles, a popular former governor, was expected to grab a GOP Senate seat, but with 49 percent of the precincts counted, Republican incumbent Lisa Murkowski, held a substantial, 51 percent to 43 percent lead.
Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) won easy reelection against Republican state Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who spent more than a million dollars of his own money to finance his advertising blitz.
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) easily beat Republican sociology professor Marvin Scott in a state that went handily for Bush. Scott was one of a handful of black Republicans running for office.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), another heavily favored incumbent, kept his seat, turning away Republican businessman Jack McMullen in the Green Mountain State.
In Ohio, Republican George V. Voinovich, a popular former governor and Senate incumbent, beat Democratic state legislator Eric Fingerhut.
Other incumbent senators easily reelected include Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah), Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Michael D. Crapo (R-Idaho), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The Democrats are also confident about taking GOP Senate seats in Colorado and Alaska.
Republicans were eyeing a Deep South sweep, where retiring Democrats have opened seats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana.
In the House, the controversial redistricting of Texas -- orchestrated by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- yielded significant gains for Republicans, if not a sweep.
In a contest between incumbents, four-term Republican Rep. Pete Sessions defeated 13-term Rep. Martin Frost, a longtime fixture of the Democratic Party. Republican Randy Neugebauer knocked off Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm, ousting a leading fiscal conservative and advocate of the partial privatization of Social Security. Smith County District Judge Louis Gohmert scored a long-sought GOP victory over Democratic Rep. Max Sandlin. And Democratic Rep. Nick Lampson was knocked off by Harris County Judge Ted Poe.
Only Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards survived the redistricting purge in Texas.
Rep. Anne M. Northup (R-Ky.), a perennial target of the Democratic Party, survived another challenge to her Louisville seat. Republican businessman Geoff Davis picked up an open Democratic seat in Kentucky by defeating former Cincinnati television anchor Nick Clooney, father of Hollywood superstar George Clooney.
On the Democratic side, Melissa Bean unseated the longest serving Republican in the House of Representatives, beating Rep. Philip M. Crane, ending a 35-year career.
In gubernatorial contests, New Hampshire voters denied a sitting chief executive a second term for the first time in 78 years, tossing Republican Gov. Craig Benson for Democrat John Lynch, a political neophyte.
Missouri's Republican secretary of state, Matt Bluntt, narrowly defeated State Auditor Claire McCaskill for the Show Me State governorship.
Mitchell E. Daniels Jr., Bush's first budget director, unseated incumbent Democrat Joseph E. Kernan to take over the statehouse in Indiana. Kernan had taken over as the state's chief executive a little more than a year ago, after the unexpected death of Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon.
Republican Jon Huntsman held onto the governorship of Utah, which was being vacated by fellow Republican Olene S. Walker. The position had been considered up for grabs.
James Douglas of Vermont, a Republican who had been considered vulnerable, won reelection, as did another once-shaky incumbent, Mike Easley, the Democratic governor of North Carolina. Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a Democrat, also kept her post.
Joe Manchin III, another Democrat, was easily elected governor of West Virginia, succeeding Democrat Robert E. Wise Jr., who declined to run for reelection after acknowledging an extramarital affair.
In North Dakota, Republican Gov. John Hoeven was reelected, as expected.