U.S. Democrats Win Back House; Decisive Senate Races Too Close to Call

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


Written by Gonzalo Moreno

The Democratic Party stole 27 Republican House seats in last night’s midterm elections. This number is well above the 15 seats needed to swing the balance of power, so, even with 13 races still undecided due to close results and logistics, the U.S. House of Representatives will be controlled by a comfortable Democratic majority in the next two years.

The challenge for the Senate proved to be a messier one. The Republicans had to lose six seats to forfeit control of the upper chamber. The Democrats managed to win four of the six seats needed, and may still win the other two, as senate races in Montana and Virginia are too close to call, although Democratic candidates lead (if marginally) in both of them.

Even if Democrats technically win these two races, actually forming a Senate majority will be a protracted affair. Virginia law will grant a recount in races as close as last night’s, and Republican incumbent George Allen, who had recently been put forward as a 2008 presidential hopeful, would almost certainly demand one. This recount will start no sooner than November 27, when election results are made official, and the process could turn into a Florida-esque mess well into next year.

Reactions to these results were predictable. Much-maligned new House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a triumphant speech: “Nowhere did the American people make it more clear that we need a new direction than in Iraq.” Star senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama also underscored the importance of the Iraq war in this shift of power, a claim that is strongly supported by exit polls.

Republicans were predictably unhappy about the results. Disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay put it most graphically: “We took a whuppin' last night and we understand that.” Republican Party chairman Ken Mehlman went into damage control mode on CNN: “We have to continue to work and try to work on a bipartisan basis to accomplish things.”

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