Massive gains deliver control to GOP; Boehner in line for speaker

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Associated Press / November 3, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Republicans have seized control of the House for the first time since 2006, riding a wave of voter discontent and economic woes to directly challenge President Obama’s agenda.

House Republicans have captured 220 seats and were leading in 20 other races. Only 218 seats are needed for control of the House.

Republicans have picked up a net gain of 53 seats and were leading for another 13 Democratic-held seats. If current trend holds, Republicans could record their largest gains in the House in more than 70 years.

In 1938, the party gained 80 seats during the second term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Democrats had picked up only two Republican seats and had lost some of their most powerful members, including John Spratt in South Carolina, the 14-termer who heads the Budget Committee, and Ike Skelton in Missouri, the Armed Services Committee chairman.

Republicans quickly pledged to heed the message of angry voters who they acknowledged were rejecting what both parties had to offer.

“Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people,’’ said John Boehner of Ohio, in line to become speaker in a new Republican-led House.

Republicans defeated more than two dozen Democrats in districts won by Senator John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential campaign, as voters expressed disillusion with Obama, anxiety about the economy, and Tea Party-fueled distaste for government. GOP gains were pronounced in the Rust Belt, with the party racking up two wins in Indiana, five each in Ohio and Pennsylvania, three in Illinois, and two in Michigan. They’d scored key victories from Maryland to Colorado and broken Democrats’ monopoly in New England by defeating Carol Shea Porter in New Hampshire.

Among the victims were Steve Driehaus of Ohio, Suzanne Kosmas of Florida, Frank Kratovil of Maryland, and Tom Perriello of Virginia, first-termers who backed key elements of Obama’s agenda — the president even campaigned for Perriello — and were savaged for it by their Republican rivals.

But those who stressed their independence from their party, like Glenn Nye of Virginia and Travis Childers of Mississippi, also went down. Some old bulls also fell, including Earl Pomeroy in North Dakota, Paul Kanjorski in Pennsylvania and 20-year veteran Chet Edwards in Texas.

It was a remarkable turnabout from 2008, when Obama helped propel Democrats to big gains in their House majority only two years after the 2006 wave that swept them to control. This year, few Democratic incumbents felt safe, least of all the 51 who claimed Republican seats over the last four years.