Democrats will take control of the House of Representatives
If Tester wins, Democrats could secure Senate control by winning in Virginia, where embattled Republican Sen. George Allen trailed his Democratic challenger, Jim Webb, by fewer than 6,000 votes out of more than 2.3 million counted. Under Virginia law, the apparent loser can request a recount after the votes have been certified if the margin is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast. If that happens, the result may not be clear for weeks. Webb declared victory early Wednesday, saying, "The votes are in, and we won." But Allen wasn't backing down. "The election continues," he said.
If the parties split the Virginia and Montana races, that would create a 50-50 breakdown in the Senate, assuming that the two independent members will caucus with the Democrats. In that event, Vice President Dick Cheney's constitutional authority to break tie votes would keep the Senate under Republican leadership.
Nancy Pelosi heralds 'new direction'
Democrats picked up at least 28 seats, more than the 15 they needed to capture a majority in the House. "Tonight is a great victory for the American people," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become the first female speaker of the House. "The American people voted for a new direction." She vowed "civility and bipartisanship" but confronted the president over his Iraq policy: "Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq."
The projected result means that President Bush for the first time faces the prospect of working with a Democratic-controlled House. Bush, whose anemic approval ratings proved a drag on Republican prospects, was described as "disappointed" with the House results. However, spokesman Tony Fratto said the president was "still optimistic about the Senate." White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president would telephone Pelosi on Wednesday to offer congratulations. "We're going to get a lot done," Snow said. "On energy, education, those are clearly things we can work on." The parties of presidents serving their sixth year in office historically have suffered substantial losses in midterm elections, with the recent exception of President Clinton in 1998. This year's turnover in Congress is the largest since 1994. The Democratic pickups in the House included three seats vacated by Republicans amid controversy: Mark Foley's in Florida, Bob Ney's in Ohio and Tom DeLay's in Texas. Two incumbent Pennsylvania Republicans embroiled in controversy also lost their seats -- 10-term Rep. Curt Weldon and Rep. Don Sherwood.
Tags: Exit Polls Election Politics Republicans Democrats Nancy Pelosi