Resurgent Democrats won control of the House of Representatives and challenged the Republicans' grip on the Senate in an election day blow to US President George W. Bush. Democrats rode to victory on a powerful wave of public anger over the war in Iraq and scandal at home.
Democrats also reclaimed governors' offices throughout the country, giving them a majority for the first time in 12 years.
Under a Democratic House, Bush faces the prospect of stalemate in the final two years of his presidency, with newly empowered Democratic lawmakers likely to investigate his administration and block his conservative political agenda. Republicans have controlled both houses of Congress for most of the time since Bush took office in 2001.
Bush monitored the returns from the White House.
"They have not gone the way he would have liked," press secretary Tony Snow said of the election.
By early yesterday morning, Democrats had picked at least 26 House seats held by Republicans, more than enough to guarantee a return to power after 12 years in the minority.
Bush had arranged to call Representative Nancy Pelosi, the leader of House Democrats, yesterday morning, then hold a news conference.
Pelosi would become the first woman speaker, or House leader, in history. Pelosi, a liberal who has sharply criticized Bush, would be second in line of succession to the presidency, behind Vice President Dick Cheney.
"Mr. President we need a new direction in Iraq," Pelosi said on Tuesday.
If the battle for House control was settled, not so the Senate struggle.
Democrats won Republican Senate seats in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Ohio and Missouri, defeating senators Rick Santorum, Mike DeWine, Lincoln Chafee and Jim Talent. But they came up short in Tennessee as Republican Bob Corker won a hotly contested race, defeating Representative Harold Ford Jr.
That left control of the Senate up in the air, pending the outcome of races in Montana and Virginia. Republican senators Conrad Burns and George Allen both trailed, and Democrats needed to win both races to emerge with a majority.
Just two years after Bush was re-elected by a comfortable margin, Democrats made his low popularity the focus of their campaigns in the wake of the never-ending bloodshed in Iraq, his administration's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina and scandals that have forced the resignations of powerful Republican lawmakers. Some Republicans tried to distance themselves from Bush.
In surveys at polling places, about six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way Bush is handling his job, and roughly the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.
In even larger numbers, about three-quarters of voters said scandals mattered to them in deciding how to vote, and they, too, were more likely to side with Democrats. The surveys were taken by Associated Press and various television networks.
Surveys of voters at their polling places nationwide suggested Democrats were winning the support of independents by a margin of almost two-to-one, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind.
Though glitches were reported in several states, the Justice Department said polling complaints were down slightly from 2004 by early afternoon.
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