Republicans move toward larger House majority
Nov. 05, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans held a commanding edge in elections for the House of Representatives on Tuesday, capitalizing on dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and national malaise to push their majority toward the highest level in 65 years.
The Republicans had won more than 190 seats as polls closed in the East and Midwest and were certain to surpass the 218 needed for a majority if incumbents prevailed as expected in the West. They knocked out Democratic incumbents in Georgia, West Virginia, Illinois, New York and Florida and claimed two open seats in New York and North Carolina.
With Republicans also gaining the majority in the Senate, Obama now faces an opposition-led Congress during his last two years in office.
The president's party typically loses seats in the elections between presidential ones, but Obama's low approval ratings around 40 percent have been a drag on fellow Democrats, along with public unease with the Islamic State group threat, the Ebola outbreak and a lackluster recovery from the 2008 recession.
Republicans tightened their grip on the South. Evan Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican state senator in West Virginia, knocked out 19-term Rep. Nick Rahall, one of the last white Democrats representing the region. Republican Rick Allen prevailed over another Southern Democrat, five-term Rep. John Barrow of Georgia.
Republicans also won the seat of a retiring Democrat Mike McIntyre in North Carolina, knocked out Democrat Joe Garcia in Florida and eased out freshmen Democrats Bill Enyart and Brad Schneider in Illinois. Republican challengers had the edge in Democratic seats in Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Texas.
Some two dozen Democratic incumbents had been in jeopardy, but just a handful of Republicans faced competitive races. Republican victories in the last such elections in 2010, fueled by the rise of the ultra-conservative tea party, gave the party the advantage in redrawing congressional districts.
The Republicans, who came into Tuesday election holding 234 seats, were likely to match the 246 House seats of 1947-1949 when another Democrat, Harry S. Truman, occupied the White House. Democrats still hold the modern-day edge for most seats — 292 — in 1979.
A solid Republican majority means Speaker John Boehner, who was on the ballot for a 13th term, can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed.
Boehner raised $102 million to ensure that Republicans would tighten their grip on the House.
Obama, whose party lost 63 seats in 2010, would become the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, surpassing Truman's 74.
All 435 House seats were on the ballot Tuesday, but the roster of competitive races was less than 10 percent of those.
Associated Press writers Donna Cassata, Erica Werner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.