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Voters cast their ballots in 2010 elections

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By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 4:37 PM

Voters streamed to the polls Tuesday in elections likely to shift the balance of power in Washington, as Democrats struggled to fend off a predicted Republican wave that could cost them control of the House and significantly narrow their majority in the Senate.

With the nation still reeling from the steepest economic slump since the Great Depression, anxious voters also seemed poised to make changes in many state houses across the nation.

Nearly 40 percent of voters in a recent Washington Post poll called the country's economic problems their top concern, dwarfing other issues including the war in Afghanistan, immigration, health care and the nation's staggering debt.

The recession has left the nation's unemployment rate hovering above 9 percent for nearly a year and a half, and more than two in five jobless workers have been unemployed for longer than six months. Meanwhile, the nation's housing market continues to founder.

The economic problems have left voters in a sour mood. Polls leading up to the elections found solid opposition to the fiscal policies pursued by President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Republicans appeared ready to break the Democratic control of the federal government that has existed since Obama took office in 2009. The GOP has to gain 39 seats to have a House majority. In the Senate, meanwhile, Democrats have a nine-seat majority, and many analysts have called it unlikely that Republicans would win the 10 seats needed to win control of that chamber.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine told CNN Tuesday morning that party officials believe they can hang on to their Senate majority, despite the Republican momentum. "In the House, it's going to be tough for us," Kaine acknowledged. ". . . We're not throwing in the towel. We're encouraging everybody to get out there and vote."

Whatever its final contours, the expected electoral upheaval is all but certain to reshape the remaining two years of Obama's term. The president's first two years in office have been marked by historic legislative achievements, including passage of a massive stimulus bill and auto industry bailout that many economists say spared the nation even deeper economic pain, as well as enactment of a sweeping health-care overhaul.

But Obama's legislative successes have failed to capture widespread public support, as the nation's continuing economic woes have left many voters in a rebellious mood, particularly when it comes to federal intervention in the economy.

"I'm unemployed - I've been looking or a job for three years - there are not jobs," said Cindy Schafle, 60, holding a Republican ballot in her hand at her polling place in Bristol, Pa. "I like the tea party. I think they'll be more flexible. People don't have a say anymore. I think the tea party will listen to both sides. Things are not right for the middle class.

"We've got to help the seniors, the retired people. A lot of promises were broken."

In all, 37 Senate seats are up for grabs, including the one held by Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada).


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