Democrats Take House

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Democrats recaptured the House last night, defeating Republican incumbents in every region of the country, and were close to gaining control of the Senate in midterm elections dominated by war, scandal and President Bush's leadership.

By early this morning, Democrats had picked up more than two dozen Republican-held House seats without losing any of their own, putting Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) into position to become the nation's first female speaker.

In an increasingly tense battle for control of the Senate, Democrats won seats in Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Virginia and Montana remained undecided, but Democrats were leading in those states, both needed to win power.

In Virginia, Sen. George Allen (R) trailed former Navy secretary James Webb by fewer than 7,800 votes. In Montana, Sen. Conrad Burns (R) was running about 10,000 votes behind state Senate President Jon Tester.

Democrats also scored heavily in gubernatorial races, picking up at least seven states to claim a majority nationally.

The upheaval in the House and the changing balance in the Senate signaled a dramatic power shift in Washington that will alter the final two years of Bush's presidency, with resurgent Democrats expected to challenge the administration on its domestic priorities and the Iraq war.

Pelosi joined other Democratic leaders at a boisterous rally just after midnight and sounded themes that others in her party echoed throughout the night.

"Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction, and that is exactly what we intend to do," she said. "The American people voted for a new direction to restore civility and bipartisanship in Washington, D.C., and Democrats promise to work together in a bipartisan way for all Americans."

Bush remained at the White House and will speak to reporters at a news conference at 1 p.m. today. House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) won reelection but acknowledged the inevitable when he told supporters in Illinois, "It's kind of tough out there."

Republicans lost almost regardless of their ideology or support for the president. Conservative Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), the most vulnerable incumbent throughout the year, was the first senator to fall, losing to state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr. Not long after, Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R), known for working across party lines, fell to Rep. Sherrod Brown after being caught up in the undertow of state GOP scandals, economic woes and the impact of the Iraq war on Buckeye State voters.

Then came Rhode Island, where Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, the son of a beloved former senator and one of the most liberal Republicans in Washington, lost to former attorney general Sheldon Whitehouse in a state where Bush's popularity is among the lowest in the nation.

Early this morning, Missouri state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) defeated Sen. James M. Talent in one of the year's closest races.

CONTINUED     1              >

© 2006 The Washington Post Company