WASHINGTON >> Republicans claimed a commanding majority in the House on Tuesday, pushing their dominance to near-historic levels as they dispatched the last white Democrats in the South and made inroads in Democratic strongholds nationwide.
The GOP easily won the 218 seats required and was on track to match or surpass the 246 seats they held in President Harry S. Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago. President Barack Obama will face an all-GOP Congress in his final two years as Republicans regained control of the Senate.
“We are humbled by the responsibility the American people have placed with us, but this is not a time for celebration,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.”
Democrats had a few bright spots, but their hopes of keeping losses to a minimum disappeared under the GOP onslaught.
Republicans tightened their grip on the South, a steady march since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and famously said Democrats would lose the region. Republican Evan Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican state senator, knocked out 19-term Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia.
Republican businessman Rick Allen prevailed over another Southern Democrat, five-term Rep. John Barrow of Georgia.
Republicans capitalized on growing dissatisfaction with Obama as voters took out their frustration on the party controlling the White House. The pervasive malaise nationwide also dragged down Democrats.
Overall, the GOP gained 12 seats and counting; Democrats just one.
Aggressive in the midterms, Republicans claimed three Democratic seats in New York, upending six-term Rep. Tim Bishop on Long Island and Dan Maffei in the Syracuse area while winning an open seat north of Albany. The results were a blow to Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans also prevailed on other Democratic turf, easing out freshmen Bill Enyart and Brad Schneider in Illinois, Obama’s home state.
In one bright spot for the Democrats, Gwen Graham, daughter of a former senator and governor, Bob Graham, knocked out two-term Rep. Steve Southerland in a Florida Panhandle district. Southerland’s all-male fundraiser and quip about Graham attending lingerie parties doomed his re-election bid.
In Nebraska, Republican Lee Terry was trailing in his bid for a ninth term against Democrat Brad Ashford.
Obama’s low approval ratings, around 40 percent, were a drag on Democrats, as was the electorate’s unease with the Islamic State group threat, Ebola outbreak and job losses. Promising economic signs of a drop in the unemployment rate and cheaper gasoline failed to help the president’s party, which typically loses seats in midterm elections.
A solid GOP majority means Boehner can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed while Republicans would hold more committee seats to guide the party agenda.
Boehner raised $102 million to ensure that Republicans would tighten their grip on the House.
Obama suffered an ignominious distinction. The president, whose party lost 63 seats in 2010, saw Democrats lose 12 seats and became the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, edging past Truman’s 74 by one.
National Democrats worked furiously to minimize the losses, outraising Republicans $172 million to $131 million. But they were outspent by GOP-leaning outside groups that targeted Democrats, pumping $7 million against first-term Rep. Ami Bera in California who held a narrow lead.
Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy contests in the country:
The election provided surprises with Republicans and Democrats pointing to the high number of undecided voters in the closing days. However, it’s hard to imagine any result topping the June primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to little-known and underfunded professor Dave Brat. Giant-slayer Brat cruised to victory in the Richmond-area district.
Cantor was the lone Jewish Republican in the House. At the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island, state lawmaker Lee Zeldin will be the House’s new Jewish Republican after defeating Bishop.
Republicans have struggled to win over female voters in presidential elections. In New York, 30-year-old Elise Stefanik, a former aide in President George W. Bush’s administration, captured an open seat and when sworn in this January will be the youngest House member.
The GOP also reclaimed a sprawling west Texas district as former CIA agent Will Hurd upended freshman Rep. Pete Gallego. Hurd would be the only African-American Republican in the House.
In Utah, Republican Mia Love held a narrow lead over Democratic rival Doug Owens in an open Democratic seat. The GOP is hoping Love could be the first black Republican women in the House.
Two-term Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who faces a 20-count indictment on tax fraud and other charges, beat back Brooklyn Democrat Domenic Recchia in a district straddling the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In Louisiana, Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who was caught on tape kissing a married aide, faltered in his re-election bid.
Former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards, a father of a 1-year-old son at age 87, headed for a Dec. 6 runoff as a distinct long-shot to win a GOP-held seat. Edwards spent eight years in prison on various charges including racketeering and extortion.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Andrew Taylor contributed to this report.