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GOP House Gains Eclipse 1994

<b>3:06 a.m.</b>

By 3 a.m., the 2010 Republican wave had successfully erased all Democratic House gains from the 2006 and 2008 cycles, and the GOP was still picking up seats.

Reps. John Salazar (Colo.) and Ciro Rodriguez (Texas) were the latest Democrats in battleground districts to fall, and several more Democratic seats in Arizona, California and Washington look to be in danger. Republicans had netted a gain of at least 56 seats. 

The final extent of GOP gains will now be determined by several of the least-expected battlefields of the 2010 cycle. Rep. James Oberstar’s was one of the late-breaking races of the cycle, and he now appears to be running behind Chip Cravaack (R) in Minnesota. 

In an even more surprising race, Republican Blake Farenthold appears to have knocked off Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D) in Texas. Oberstar was added to GOP target lists during the final month of the campaign, and Ortiz became part of the discussion only in the final weeks. <p>Elsewhere, Rep. Jim Matheson (D-Utah) pulled out a victory over Morgan Philpot (R) in a contest that was on hardly anyone’s target list this fall.

In a rare bit of good news for Democrats, the Associated Press “un-called” Georgia’s 2nd district, where state Rep. Mike Keown had been declared the winner over Rep. Sanford Bishop (D). The latest reports show Bishop with a several-thousand-vote lead. 

Democrats also helped stem their losses by holding the seats of Oregon Reps. David Wu and Kurt Schrader, two seats that were targeted by Republicans.<p><b>1:30 a.m.</b><p>As of 1 a.m., House Republicans had eclipsed the party’s 1994 gains, with about 20 competitive races yet to be called.

Republicans have netted at least 56 seats in the House, four more than the 52 seats that the party gained during the Republican Revolution that swept it to power 16 years ago. Republican insiders are now wondering whether the party might even be within reach of hitting the all-time record achieved in 1938 when Democrats lost 71 seats during Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency.

By midnight, Democratic House seats were falling across the map, with Republicans making key gains in New York, Wisconsin and Michigan, in seats where both national parties spent heavily. In Arkansas’ open 1st district seat, where the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent nearly $1.8 million trying to hold the seat of retiring Rep. Marion Berry, Democrat Chad Causey conceded defeat just minutes after Republicans declared victory in taking control of the House. 

Democrats were unable to secure victories in places where they hoped to play offense, including Illinois’ open 10th district seat in Chicago and South Florida’s open 25th district seat.

Some Democrats, including Rep. Ben Chandler (Ky.), are still fighting in battleground districts.<p>If Chandler holds on, he will be one of the few targeted Democrats from the coal-rich Ohio River Basin who wins.

The GOP wave began with the defeat of Rep. Rick Boucher (D) in Virginia’s 9th district and key Democratic loses in Southern Indiana. Early in the night, the wave gained momentum with GOP victories in Tennessee and Ohio. More recently, the Associated Press called West Virginia’s open 1st district seat for the GOP.<p>In all those races, the controversial cap-and-trade bill became a key issue for Republicans to attack Democrats with. In fact, the cap-and-trade measure, which never saw a vote in the Senate, may well have been the difference between major GOP gains in the House and more limited GOP gains in the Senate.

Among the other Democratic incumbents defeated Tuesday was Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (S.D.), a leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Coalition. Herseth Sandlin fell to state Rep. Kristi Noem in a race that was a top priority for both parties. Herseth Sandlin’s loss means Republicans swept the Dakotas on Tuesday, as Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) lost earlier in the evening. 

<b>11:53 p.m.</b>

Riding a wave of voter discontent, Republicans swept control of the House on Tuesday — surging past the 39-seat net gain needed to make John Boehner the next Speaker.

“For far too long Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington and not what’s best for the American people. And tonight that begins to change,” the Ohio Republican said at a GOP victory party at a hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

Boehner, who later choked back tears, added: “This is not a time for celebration. This is a time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.”

Republicans are on their way to outperform pre-Election Day predictions and could see their gains surge into the 60s before the night is done.

The Great Lakes region and the South have proved to be especially difficult for Democratic candidates and entrenched veteran Democrats such as Reps. Gene Taylor (Miss.) and John Spratt (S.C.).

In some states such as Georgia and Illinois, Republicans won every competitive seat in the state, and Pennsylvania has also proved to be a particularly tough state for Democrats.

The early loss of 14-term Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) was a sign that the night was going sour for Democrats, but the full extent of the losses may not be known for several more hours, as polls closed at 11 p.m. on the West Coast.

<b>11:27 p.m.</b>

House Republicans are on the verge of completing a historic return to power as they continue to rack up victories and move closer to the 39-seat net gain necessary to flip the House.

With few exceptions, targeted Democrats have so far been unable to turn back the Republican wave. In the past hour, nearly a dozen Democrats have fallen, and Republicans have now picked up a net gain of more than 35 seats. The latest round of Democratic incumbents to fall includes veterans such as Reps. Paul Kanjorski (Pa.), Earl Pomeroy (N.D.), John Spratt (S.C.) and Jim Marshall (Ga.), as well as targeted freshman such as Reps. John Adler (N.J.) and Frank Kratovil (Md.).

As it became clear that the House was going to flip, presumptive Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wasted little time in reaching out to successful Republicans. Early in the evening, Boehner made calls to Rep.-elect Sandy Adams, who beat freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (Fla.) and Rep.-elect Larry Buschon, who won a Democratic open seat in Indiana, according to a GOP aide.

He also reached out to the conservative base, doing a Skype call with tea party activists in Liberty Township, Ohio, which is in his district. They gave him a standing ovation.

“I’ll never let you down,” Boehner told the crowd in signing off.<p>Pennsylvania is proving particularly troublesome for Democrats, with four incumbents losing so far.

Republicans’ strategy to expand the House playing field late in the cycle appears to have been successful. Republican Bill Johnson defeated Rep. Charlie Wilson (D) in the Ohio’s 6th district, a race that only came on the map this fall.<p>As of 11 p.m., Democrats had picked up two GOP-held seats: Delaware’s at-large district and the seat held by Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.). 

The only question that now remains is how large the Republican majority will be in the 112th Congress. Dozens of battleground races have yet to be called, including several contests on the West Coast, where polls are only now closing.

<b>10:24 p.m.</b>

Republicans are well on their way to securing enough seats to take the House majority after a slew of early victories in territory that Democrats needed to hold. 

As of 10 p.m., several news outlets were projecting that the House would return to GOP control in the 112th Congress. <p>At Democratic National Committee headquarters, Chairman Tim Kaine told reporters that the House looked ready to flip to Republican control.

“Maybe it is a message from the American public,” he said during a press briefing Tuesday night. “We’ve got a Democrat in the White House, we’ll have maybe a majority of Republican governors, we’ll have a Democratic Senate, a Republican House.”

Losses in the past hour by Democratic veterans such as Reps. Allen Boyd (Fla.), Lincoln Davis (Tenn.) and Chet Edwards (Texas), as well as Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D-N.H.), have added to an early flood of GOP victories on the East Coast, which should give Republicans more than the 39 seats needed to take over the House.

Four hours after the first polls closed, several Great Lakes states will now become the focus of race watchers as Democrats are trying to hold territory such as the open seat in Michigan’s 1st district and the seats of freshman Reps. Mark Schauer and Gary Peters. In Illinois, Democrats hope to pick up the open 10th district, but that victory is likely to be offset by the defeat of Democratic Reps. Debbie Halvorson and Phil Hare. 

Democrats got a small bit of good news from Rep. Joe Donnelly’s victory in Indiana. His district had been closely watched early in the night, but Republican officials said privately Tuesday that his seat was always a stretch.

Although Republicans are getting a big boost from their early victories in Florida and Virginia, the Carolinas could also prove to be a rare bright spot for Democrats if current results hold. 

In North Carolina, Democratic incumbents were leading by high single digits in all three of the races that Republicans had talked about targeting this year.<p>In South Carolina, veteran Rob Miller (D) is neck and neck with Rep. Joe Wilson (R), while Rep. John Spratt (D) still seems to be in the fight in a district that he has held for 14 terms.

<b>9:17 p.m.</b>

Three hours after the first polls closed on the East Coast, the first cracks in the Democrats’ House majority became evident as incumbents began to fall.

The first incumbent officially defeated was no surprise. State Rep. Sandy Adams (R) beat freshman Rep. Suzanne Kosmas (D) in the Orlando-based seat that national Democrats had long written off. And the losses by freshman Democratic Reps. Tom Perriello and Glenn Nye in Virginia were ones that party officials expected. But the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (D) to Republican Morgan Griffith in Virginia was more shocking, as party strategists had believed the 14-term veteran would hang on despite the GOP wave. Boucher hasn’t faced a tough race in years, but he appears to have been undone by his vote in favor of the cap-and-trade bill.

Boucher’s loss came at the same time that Republicans picked up Indiana’s open 8th district, Florida’s 8th district and Indiana Rep. Baron Hill’s 9th district. 

Hill was defeated by attorney Todd Young (a nephew of former Vice President Dan Quayle). Hill voted in support of the stimulus, the health care reform law, cap-and-trade and financial regulatory reform.

Meanwhile, polls have tightened in Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler’s Lexington, Ky.-based seat and Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly’s South Bend, Ind., district. After losing Boucher, losses in those districts would indicate that even Democrats who entered Election Day ahead in polls may not be able to fend off the GOP wave. 

Elsewhere in Virginia, two other Democrats are running behind their GOP challengers. It’s no surprise that Rep. Glenn Nye (D) is in trouble. Much more surprising is Republican Keith Fimian’s slight lead over Rep. Gerry Connolly (D) in the Democratic-leaning 11th district.

At 9 p.m. polls closed in 14 more states, including key House battlegrounds in Wisconsin, Colorado and South Dakota.

<b>8:19 p.m.</b>

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday night, no House incumbent had yet to be declared defeated, as polls closed in 16 states featuring nearly 50 closely watched House races. 

Nearly two hours after polls closed in Indiana, Republican officials in Washington, D.C., said they were cautiously optimistic about pickups in the state’s open 8th district seat and the 9th district of Rep. Baron Hill (D). With nearly a third of votes counted in the 8th and 9th districts, Republicans held double-digits leads. But Rep. Joe Donnelly’s 2nd district remained too close to call, especially with returns yet to be reported from St. Joseph County, which includes the Democratic stronghold of South Bend.  

In Kentucky, Democratic incumbents were holding the line with Rep. Ben Chandler showing a 5-point lead in the 6th district. Meanwhile, in the Louisville-based 3rd district, Rep. John Yarmuth (D) beat back his tea-party-backed challenger with relative ease. A good sign for Democrats on a night where they will be looking for any good news to boost their morale. 

Among the states where polls closed at 7 p.m., early results showed Republicans on track to pick up Florida’s 8th district held by Rep. Alan Grayson (D), while Virginia Democratic Reps. Tom Perriello and Rick Boucher both looked to be in close contests.

Among the races to watch in states where polls closed at 8 p.m. are several involving veteran Democrats who found themselves the surprise target of Republican efforts this cycle. They include Reps. John Dingell (Mich.), Barney Frank (Mass.), Gene Taylor (Miss.), Ike Skelton (Mo.) and Paul Kanjorski (Pa.). 

The biggest battlegrounds this hour include several Southern Blue Dog Democrats, including Reps. Travis Childers (Miss.) and Bobby Bright (Miss.). Both boast some of the most conservative voting records in the Democratic Caucus, but either or both could fall in a Republican wave. 

Along with Kanjorski, a half-dozen other Democratic seats are being closely watched in Pennsylvania. Democratic Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Patrick Murphy look particularly vulnerable. The safest is probably Rep. Jason Altmire (D), so if his 4th district starts to get tight, it’s probably a sign that things are going south quickly for Democrats.

<b>7:18 p.m.</b>

The road to a Republican takeover of the House on Tuesday night begins in Indiana with a trio of races that are being closely watched to see how strong the expected Republican wave will be. 

Republicans have targeted Democratic Reps. Baron Hill and Joe Donnelly, as well as the seat that Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D) left open to run for the Senate. 

Early returns showed Republicans with leads against Hill and Donnelly. Donnelly, who ran ads against his party’s leadership, faces Republican Jackie Walorski. Ellsworth’s open 8th district seat has long been expected to be a GOP pickup, and Republican Larry Bucshon appeared on track to make that happen, running 8 points ahead of Democrat Trent Van Haaften with just more than 10 percent reporting.

Polls have also closed in eastern Kentucky, where national Republicans have invested more than half a million dollars trying to knock off Rep. Ben Chandler. Chandler was expected to have a slight edge in the race so a loss in his Lexington-based 6th district could signal a long night for Democrats. Early returns showed Chandler running about 10 points ahead of Republican Andy Barr. 

In the next hour polls will close in nine states that feature more than two dozen closely watched House races. They include the open-seat contest in West Virginia’s battleground 1st district as well as South Carolina’s 5th district race, where Rep. John Spratt (D), one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top lieutenants on Capitol Hill, is poised to fall.

Republicans are on track to make some big gains in Florida, where national Democrats have all but ceded Rep. Alan Grayson’s 8th district and Rep. Suzanne Kosmas’s 24th district. More worrisome for Democrats would be losses by Florida Reps. Allen Boyd and Ron Klein. Meanwhile, if Democrats can steal one of two open-seat contests in the Sunshine State, they could go a long way toward beating back a GOP tsunami.

Virginia also presents a good early indicator with four House races in play. A loss by Rep. Tom Perriello would be particularly notable given how much the White House has invested in the freshman Democrat who stood by the president despite being from a conservative district. The defeat of either Democratic Reps. Rick Boucher or Gerry Connolly would also indicate Democrats could lose the House in short order.

<b>Anna Palmer and Daniel Newhauser contributed to this report.</b>

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