Washington | Republicans held a commanding edge in the House of Representatives today, capitalising on dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and national malaise to push their numbers in US elections toward the highest levels in 65 years.
The Republicans had won more than 120 seats as polls closed in the East and were certain to surpass 218 if incumbents prevailed as expected in the Midwest and West. Aggressive in the midterms, Republicans won the seat of a retiring moderate Democrat in North Carolina, its first net gain, and challengers had the edge in three Democratic seats in Illinois, Obama’s adopted state.
Another early winner was Dave Brat, a professor who had a surprise upset of Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a June primary. Some two dozen Democratic incumbents were in jeopardy, but just a handful of Republicans faced competitive races. Republican victories in the latest midterm elections in 2010, fueled by the rise of the ultra-conservative tea party, gave the party the advantage in redrawing congressional districts.
The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, but Obama’s low approval ratings around 40 percent have been a drag on Democrats, along with public unease with the Islamic State group threat, the Ebola outbreak and a lackluster recovery from the 2008 recession. Promising economic signs of a drop in the unemployment rate and cheaper gasoline have failed to help.
The election is certain to provide surprises, with Republicans and Democrats pointing to the high number of undecided voters in the closing days. Republicans purposely lowered expectations at a gain of five to eight seats, but privately some said anything less than a net of a dozen seats would be a disappointment.
A solid Republican majority means Speaker John Boehner, who was on the ballot for a 13th term, can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed.
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