WASHINGTON -- Republicans retained their grasp on the U.S. House, and
immediately pledged to serve as a check on President Obama's second term
and a Democratic-controlled Senate.
Republicans headed into
Election Day with 242 seats under their control, and Democrats held 193.
While Democrats made inroads in a handful of congressional districts,
they were falling short of winning the additional 25 seats needed to
seize the majority.
MORE: With battleground wins, Obama captures second term
"Twenty-five was always a daunting number," said Jessica Taylor, an analyst with the independent Rothenberg Political Report. "To get there, everything had to go right" for Democrats.
big roadblock to any sweeping partisan change: the redrawing of
congressional districts after the last Census. The 2010 GOP takeover of
legislatures in 26 states helped Republicans protect their incumbents in
swing districts - while vulnerable Democrats in places such as North
Carolina were drawn into more competitive districts.
the hard-fought presidential race has overshadowed this year's
congressional contests, and neither President Obama nor Republican
nominee Mitt Romney has had a last-minute surge that could help lift
others in their party to victory.
MORE: Paul Ryan wins Wisconsin House seat
Political observers say
Democratic gains were likely to remain in single digits -- in stark
contrast to the previous three election cycles when more than 20 seats
have changed hands.
"This is not a big wave election," said G.
Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College
in Lancaster, Pa.
"We will have a Congress that is very similar
ideologically to the one we have now," he said. "We will have a House
that tilts to the right, a Senate that is likely to be controlled by
Democrats who tilt to the left, and it will be very difficult to reach
A persistent partisan divide will make it difficult
to pass major legislation in the next Congress -- no matter who occupies
the White House, political observers say.
"President Obama has
been given a second chance, but not the right to pursue a second term
the way he pursued his first," said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, who
oversees Republican election efforts."The People's House serves at the
will of the voters, and those voters delivered a resounding message that
they want a check on the president."
Even as partisan contours
remain largely the same, Tuesday's election will bring changes to the
U.S. House -- as a combination of retirements and redistricting
guarantees that dozens of new members will enter Congress in January.
The election, for instance, marked the return of a Kennedy to Congress.
Kennedy III, 32, son of a former congressman and the grandson of Sen.
Robert Kennedy, beat Republican Sean Bielat in their battle to replace
liberal icon Rep. Barney Frank, who is retiring.t also meant the return of familiar faces. Republican vice
presidential nominee Paul Ryan sailed to victory in one contest Tuesday
night - his race for the southeast Wisconsin seat he has held since
1998. State law allowed him to compete in both races at the same time.
Ryan is chairman of the influential House Budget Committee.
nearly 70 competitive seats were in play heading into the election as
several of the 87 House GOP freshmen elected in 2010 faced tough
challenges, moderate Democrats in the South struggled to retain their
seats and incumbents battled incumbents in newly drawn districts around
Dwindling Blue Dogs
redistricting in several states put Blue Dog Democrats in less friendly
territory, and Tuesday's results made the already shrinking coalition
of moderate Democrats in the House even smaller.
Chandler, a five-term Blue Dog Democrat from Kentucky, became the first
House incumbent to lose re-election Tuesday night when the Associated
Press declared Republican Andy Barr the winner.
The race was a
re-match with Barr, a Lexington attorney whom Chandler beat by just 648
votes in 2010. In this election, Barr sought to tie Chandler to Obama
administration policies he says have hurt the state's coal industry.n North Carolina, Republican businessman Richard Hudson defeated another sitting Blue Dog, Democratic Rep. Larry Kissell.
picked up two House seats in the state, currently held by moderate
Democrats. Real estate developer Mark Meadows beat Democrat Hayden
Rogers, the former chief of staff to Rep. Heath Shuler, who retired.
George Holding, meanwhile, won the seat of Rep. Brad Miller, another
veteran Blue Dog Democrat who opted to retire rather than face
re-election. Holding is a former U.S. attorney, perhaps best known for
obtaining a criminal indictment against former Democratic presidential
candidate John Edwards. (A jury later acquitted Edwards of a
campaign-finance charge in that case and a mistrial was declared on
Late into evening, another Blue Dog contest in the
Tar Heel state -- between Democrat Rep. Mike McIntyre and state Sen.
David Rouzer, a Republican -- was too close to call.
Democratic Rep. John Barrow survived a tough battle against the
Republican nominee, state Rep. Lee Anderson, for the Augusta-area
district. Anderson, a third-generation family farmer, has trailed Barrow
in fundraising and shunned debating the incumbent.
redrawn to favor Republicans, is about a third African American. Last
month, Barrow sought to appeal to both constituencies in an
attention-getting commercial touting his support for gun rights and his
endorsement by the National Rifle Association.
In it, he displays
his father's rifle and a Smith & Wesson handgun he said his
grandfather once used to stop a lynching. "They are my guns now, and
ain't nobody going to take them away," Barrow says in the ad.
other Blue Dog losses, however, underscore a demographic shift underway
in the Democratic Party toward women and minorities. The non-partisan Cook Political Report
predicts white males will make up 46% to 48% of the House Democratic
Caucus next year, down from 53% today. (White males make up 86% of the
House Republican Caucus, the Cook analysis shows.)
Democrat-led redistricting helped the party pick up long-held Republican seats in two states.
western Maryland, Democrat John Delaney defeated 20-year congressman
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who at 86 is one of the oldest members of the U.S.
House. In a Chicago suburb, voters rejected another veteran --
seven-term Republican Rep. Judy Biggert -- defeated by former Democratic
congressman Bill Foster. Foster, a physicist, had served a term in
another district before losing in 2010.
Democrats also scored a
victory in central Florida, where voters backed outspoken liberal Alan
Grayson after turning him out of office two years ago. Grayson easily
defeated Todd Long, a conservative radio host and lawyer.
stopped the Tea Party tide," New York Rep. Steve Israel, who oversees
the Democratic campaign operation, said Tuesday night.
said his party retained control of the House because "Americans were
unwilling to hand the Speaker's gavel back to Nancy Pelosi because her
party chose to double down on the same failed policies that caused her
to lose it in the first place."
Freshmen in competitive races
The election brought signs of ebbing support for the Republicans swept into office in the 2010 tide.
suburban Chicago, outspoken Republican freshman Joe Walsh, who won by
290 votes in 2010, was defeated by Democrat Tammy Duckworth, who lost
both legs while piloting a helicopter in Iraq.
Illinois contest, another first-term Republican, Rep. Bobby Schilling
lost to Democrat Cheri Bustos, a former East Moline alderwoman, who was
supported by labor unions and EMILY's List, which backs female
Democratic candidates who support abortion rights.
New York, GOP
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle tossed out Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei by fewer
than 700 votes two years ago. Maffei came back for a rematch and won the
Syracuse district Tuesday.
In New Hampshire, meanwhile,
Republican Rep. Charlie Bass lost Tuesday to Democrat Ann McLane Kuster
in a rematch of their closely contested 2010 race. His moderate district
backed Obama in 2008 and Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry
four years earlier, making re-election an uphill battle for Bass.
prevailed in other close contests. In a southwest Indiana district --
dubbed the "Bloody Eighth" because its voters routinely toss out
incumbents in favor of the opposing party - GOP freshman Rep. Larry
Bucshon held off Democrat Dave Crooks.
One of the most expensive House contests featured one of Congress' best-known freshmen.
Republican Rep. Allen West, elected in the Tea Party-fueled wave of
2010, quickly made his mark as a successful fundraiser and a
conservative firebrand. The retired Army lieutenant colonel, for
example, once estimated that as many as 80 members of Congress were
Late into Tuesday, he was locked in a
too-close-to-call race with Democrat Patrick Murphy, a political
newcomer whose family owns a construction business.
West has spent
more than $13 million to defend his seat to Murphy's $3.4 million,
Federal Election Commission records show. Political parties and outside
groups pumped in nearly $7 million, according to the non-partisan
Sunlight Foundation, which tracks political spending.
Lawmaker vs. lawmaker
groups have splurged on other competitive races, including the hotly
contested battle in which Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Renacci beat
Betty Sutton, a Democrat, after they were thrown into the same suburban Cleveland district by post 2010-Census redistricting.
$10 million has flowed into the contest to fuel non-stop television ads
that attack Sutton for supporting Obama's health care law and Renacci
as an uncaring millionaire.
In the other incumbent vs. incumbent
contest that pitted a Democrat against a Republican, Iowa GOP Rep. Tom
Latham beat Democratic Rep. Leonard Boswell.
Nowhere has the
lawmaker-against-lawmaker conflict been more intense than the race
between Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, fighting for
the same San Fernando Valley seat in California. A debate last month
turned into a physical confrontation.
Berman, the top Democrat on
the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has had the support of California's
Democratic leadership against Sherman, known for his tireless retail
Veterans in tough battles
In a closely
watched Massachusetts race, eight-term Democratic Rep. John Tierney won
re-election despite the political damage resulting from his wife's legal
troubles involving an offshore gambling operation.
Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Tea Party favorite who gained fame with her
short-lived bid for this year's Republican presidential nomination,
faces a close re-election battle against Democrat Jim Graves, a wealthy
hotelier who has put some of his own money into the campaign.
neighboring Iowa, another conservative Republican, Rep. Steve King,
fended off another politician with a well-known name - Democrat Christie
Vilsack, the state's former first lady and the wife of U.S. Agriculture
Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Another House veteran in the spotlight
also won re-election: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Ill., who has been on
medical leave since June. He has undergone treatment for bipolar
disorder and gastrointestinal problems.
Jackson also has been the
subject of two investigations. A House ethics committee probe has
examined whether he raised campaign money for then-governor Rod
Blagojevich in the hopes of winning appointment to Obama's old Senate
seat. Jackson has denied any wrongdoing. The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, has reported that Jackson is under federal investigation for allegedly using campaign money to decorate his house.
Rise of minority candidates?
Utah, Mia Love tried to make history, but conceded defeat. Had she been
elected, the small-city mayor would have become the first black, female
Republican in Congress. Instead, veteran Rep. Jim Matheson prevailed.
California, two Latino Democrats are in competitive races against GOP
incumbents. Jose Hernandez, a former astronaut, is challenging freshman
Rep. Jeff Denham, while physician Raul Ruiz, a farmworker's son who went
on to earn three Harvard degrees, is taking on veteran Rep. Mary Bono