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Democratic disaster as Republicans win US Senate

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 - 13:40
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Republicans stormed to victory on Tuesday in US midterm elections, thumping rival Democrats to clinch control of both houses of Congress and assuring a fractious final two years of Barack Obama's presidency.

[WASHINGTON] Republicans stormed to victory on Tuesday in US midterm elections, thumping rival Democrats to clinch control of both houses of Congress and assuring a fractious final two years of Barack Obama's presidency.

Riding a wave of frustration with Washington incumbents and the unpopular policies of the Obama administration, Republicans seized at least seven seats from Senate Democrats to claim the majority in both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006.

"The American people have put their trust in the Republican Party," Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said shortly after the Democratic implosion.

Mitch McConnell, the Senate's top Republican, brushed aside the toughest challenge to his Kentucky seat in 30 years and was slated to replace Harry Reid as Senate majority leader.

"This experiment in big government has lasted long enough. It's time to go in a new direction," Mr McConnell boomed to supporters in his victory speech.

But he sounded a conciliatory note as well, adding that while he and the president rarely see eye to eye, "we do have an obligation to work together on issues where we can agree." Mr Reid, stung by losing his powerful leadership role, congratulated Mr McConnell but also called for cooperation.

"The message from voters is clear: they want us to work together," Mr Reid said.

Republicans have held the House of Representatives since 2010, and they kept it safely in hand Tuesday. The only question was whether they would dramatically extend their lead there.

But in a glorious night for Obama's rivals, Republicans also won key governors' races in Florida, Wisconsin, Texas and elsewhere.

Democrats worked feverishly to draw voters to the polls in a last-gasp effort, but it was not enough to halt the Republican juggernaut.

With no legislative base in Congress, Mr Obama will struggle to pass any reforms in the final stretch of his mandate, and his opponents will be able to thwart his appointments to judicial and official posts.

The party of an incumbent president historically fares badly in elections in his second term, and every president since Ronald Reagan has left office with the opposition controlling Congress.

The Republicans, capitalizing on the nation's sour mood despite an economic recovery, essentially based their campaigns on attacks against Mr Obama and policies like his troubled health care reform.

"Tonight was a terrific night for Republicans," conservative Senator Ted Cruz said on CNN.

"It was a powerful repudiation of the Obama agenda." But he repeated what many in his party have said, that the responsibility now falls on Republicans to govern responsibly, particularly in the run up to the all-important 2016 presidential election.

Election night was ugly from the get-go for Obama's party.

Democrats including Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Udall of Colorado fell like dominoes as Republicans capitalised on a particularly strong set of candidates who successfully convinced voters they would be better off with leaders not loyal to an unpopular president.

Conservative Joni Ernst won her battle in Iowa, becoming the state's first female senator.

Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire proved to be one of the only Democrats in a battleground state to hold her seat.

But that was the only good news for Democrats, as Republicans fended off challenges in Kentucky and Georgia, two GOP strongholds where Mr Obama's party was seeking improbable upsets.

Kansas also went the Republicans' way, with veteran Senator Pat Roberts surviving a mighty battle with businessman Greg Orman, an independent who had the potential to play Senate kingmaker.

The onslaught could well deepen for Democrats, with Alaska still up in the air, Virginia still a cliffhanger and Senator Mary Landrieu forced into a December 6 runoff against Republican Bill Cassidy.

Bracing for the inevitably ugly outcome, Mr Obama has invited the four congressional leaders, including McConnell, to meet him at the White House on Friday.

While Republicans are likely to cooperate on issues like tax reform, the party will seek to breathe life into their stalled jobs bills, to gain approval of the delayed Keystone XL pipeline, roll back some carbon emission regulations and tweak Obamacare.

AFP