Republicans seize House of Representatives from battered Democrats
The Republican Party has recaptured the House of Representatives from the Democrats, delivering a stunning rebuke to President Barack Obama just two years after he won the White House.
The party won a slew of Democratic seats in America's eastern time zone such as Indiana and Virginia, and were on course for an overall gain of 52-55 seats by the time votes in the rest of country had been counted.
But Republicans fell short of their ambitious target of the ten seats needed to win the Senate, which would have given them total control of Congress.
The Democrats keep a narrow lead in the Senate, which will give the party considerable leverage against what is expected to be a barrage of Republican legislation from the House designed to unpick President Barack Obama’s achievements in his first two years.
Early in the evening the Republicans celebrated as Tea Party favourites Marco Rubio and Rand Paul won in Florida and Kentucky respectively.
Mr Paul achieved the historic feat of becoming the first member of the anti-tax, small-government Tea Party member to win a Senate seat. The committed libertarian, son of Representative Ron Paul, who was a maverick 2008 presidential candidate, prevailed in Kentucky.
In his victory speech, he proclaimed that "tonight there is a Tea Party tidal wave and we are sending a message” He continued: “It's a message of fiscal sanity, limited constitutional government and balanced budgets."
Mr Rubio delivered a warning to the Republican leadership in Washington that the party had to learn from the mistakes made after it last won a majority in 1994, when it abandoned the principles of balanced budgets and small government.
"We make a grave mistake if we believe tonight these results will somehow embrace the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance. A second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be, not so long ago," he said.
In the Senate, Republicans picked up Democratic seats in Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Arkansas as well as Mr Obama's former seat in Illinois.
In Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader narrowly beat Sharron Angle, another Tea Party favourite also supported by Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential candidate in 2008.
Democrats took solace in Joe Manchin’s victory in West Virginia and Barbara Boxer beating Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard chief executive, in California. In Colorado Michael Bennet was on course to defeat Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Buck.
In the House, Congressman John Boehner became the new Speaker, succeeding Nancy Pelosi, who became the first woman to hold the post in 2006.
In a tearful victory speech, he said: "We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making the changes they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.
"But make no mistake, the president will find in our new majority the voice of the American people as they’ve expressed it tonight: standing on principle, checking Washington’s power, and leading the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government."
The White House confirmed later that Mr Obama had spoken to Mr Boehner and the President said he was “looking forward to working with him and the Republicans to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people.”
A majority of women, less well-off voters and Catholics – all groups that helped Mr Obama win the White House – said in opinion polls that they would back Republican candidates this time over their Democrat opponents, while turnout among young and black voters looked to have dropped.
As well as the votes for Congress, there were elections for 37 state governorships that would decide how the US is run at a regional level and also affect the redrawing of electoral district boundaries.