What exactly does that mean though. It's expected that the GOP will pick up more than 60 seats - quite possibly up to 64 seats, depending on a couple of close races. That gives Republicans a strong majority in the House.
John Boehner will be the next Speaker of the House, with Nancy Pelosi moving into the minority.
The Senate went about as well as should have been expected for Republicans. They picked up six seats with three races still pending.
In both instances, the outcomes come close to matching my own predictions yesterday - 68 seats in the House and 7 seats in the Senate.
Does this mean that Republicans have a mandate? Hardly.
People are voting against Democrats and considering Republicans the lesser of two evils. They see government spending run amok and promises broken. They want to see spending reined in and some credibility reestablished (though some local races are thoroughly baffling - see that under-investigation Charlie Rangel won reelection in a landslide despite being under a monstrous cloud of ethics, legal, and tax woes that could see him kicked out of office).
Apparently, throwing the bums out didn't apply to Rangel, but that was an exception more than the rule. People aren't in a charitable mood and the economy is playing a large role in that.
If the newly formed Republican majority can't get its act together in short order to put together a coherent economic policy and work with the Democrats who control the Senate (where Harry Reid appears to have held on to his seat over Sharron Angle), and President Obama, things will get ugly going into 2012 and the general elections. Chief among the issues are expiring tax cuts, economic policy, and those will trump whatever socially conservative agenda that the right wing Republicans hope to push through the House. They wont get anywhere with a Senate controlled by Democrats, but they make take up enough issues (like abortion restrictions, pushing intelligent design/creationism, and junk science on climate change) to encourage their constituents and backers.
Democrats will have to content themselves to holding on in the Senate and winning several key races in state capitals. New York was one of the few bright spots along with California. In New York, Andrew Cuomo handily defeated Carl Paladino, whose rambling and disjointed speech following the results again showed just how ill-suited he was to the job he sought. Downticket races also broke for Democrats as Eric Schneiderman and Thomas DiNapoli both overcame strong challenges. It looks like Paladino's putrid campaign and odious positions made it tougher for the Republican challengers to overcome the stench in the statewide races. Still, the State Senate is still up for grabs, but Republicans say that they've regained control of that chamber.
Connecticut's governor's race was tight, but Republican Thomas Foley won there. Linda McMahon fell to Dick Blumenthal in the Senate race to replace retiring Chris Dodd. That's something of a surprise given that Blumenthal repeatedly lied about his military service, but McMahon turned off voters because of her background in professional wrestling and its related scandals. Still, Democrats have to be thankful that Blumenthal won out or else the job of holding on to the US Senate would have been much more difficult.
The oddest race of the day has to go to Alaska though, where the write-in ballot is the winner in a three-way race. The write-in candidate, incumbent US Senator Lisa Murkowski, lost the primary to a tea party candidate:
The Alaska Senate race was headed for another nailbiter in the rematch between Sen. Lisa Murkowski and tea party favorite Joe Miller as supporters from both sides prepared Wednesday for a potentially prolonged ballot count.That would be a potential repudiation of Sarah Palin in her own backyard, but other Tea Party luminaries did manage to win, including Rand Paul in Kentucky.
Write-in ballots held the lead in the hotly contested three-person race late Tuesday, a potentially good sign for Murkowski's long-shot effort to keep her job.
"They said it couldn't be done," she told supporters Tuesday night. "We said if it can be done anywhere, it can be done in Alaska, and let's prove the rest of the country wrong. And we're doing that tonight."
No U.S. Senate candidate has won as a write-in since Strom Thurmond did it in 1954. But with nearly 99 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday, write-ins had 41 percent of the vote.
Miller, who beat Murkowski for the GOP nomination in August by just 2,006 votes, received 34 percent. He sent supporters home early from his campaign's Tuesday evening party, then returned to his hotel with his family.
Democrat Scott McAdams had about 24 percent and all but conceded Tuesday evening.
Nate Silver has been blogging up a storm about the election results and his thoughtful comments about the potential outcomes and statistical analysis is a must-see. He figures that the most likely outcome of the election is that Republicans pick up between 64 and 66 seats in the House, which is a stunning win for Republicans. That the Democrats managed to hang on in the Senate is a lesser achievement given that the Democrats had a built in advantage given the nature of the seats that were at stake to begin with. Still, the Republicans cut that margin to near razor-thin majority. The Democrats will hold at least 52 seats, unless the Democrats lose both Washington and Colorado, which is unlikely. Connecticut continues to be a most curious race, with ballot issues in Bridgeport and slow reporting being major issues.