Democratic wave rolls through House
By Bill Adair, Times Washington Bureau Chief
Riding a wave of voter anger about the Iraq war and corruption in Congress, Democrats were poised to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives and gain seats in the Senate.
Democratic challengers led in many districts held by Republicans and seemed likely to win the 15 seats needed to take control of the House. In the battle for the Senate, Democrats won GOP seats in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Rhode Island, but might fall short of the six seats necessary to win control.
In some states, Democrats won by large margins, reflecting deep unhappiness with Congress and the Republican president. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, incumbent Rick Santorum was soundly defeated by Democrat Robert Casey Jr. In Ohio, Sen. Mike DeWine was trounced by Democrat Sherrod Brown.
"We are on the brink of a great Democratic victory," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, in line to become the first female speaker in history.
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid declared, "There is a wind of change out there. The House is going to flip for sure."
Exit polls showed Democrats winning remarkably strong support from groups that had voted Republican in recent elections: the middle class, white evangelicals and suburban women.
In Florida, Democrats picked up two Republican congressional seats. State Sen. Ron Klein defeated Rep. Clay Shaw, a Republican who has held the seat for 26 years. Democrat Tim Mahoney won a close race with Republican Joe Negron for the seat formerly held by Rep. Mark Foley, who resigned six weeks ago after a sex scandal.
Nationally, the results were a strong rebuke of President Bush and the Iraq war. Exit polls showed voters were in a gloomy mood and that they viewed the election as a referendum on national rather than local issues. Voters cited the war, corruption, the economy and terrorism as their top concerns.
Throughout the nation, Democrats gained ground in Republican territory. Democratic candidates won three Republican seats in Indiana, a state carried by GOP presidential candidates in every election since 1964.
"It’s a pretty grim looking night," sighed Dick Armey, a former House Republican leader. "It’s pretty tough to watch."
Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress since 1994, except for a period in 2001-02 when Democrats controlled the Senate.