Republican Tide Sweeps U.S. Elections
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KWAME HOLMAN: When the new 109th Congress convenes in January, it will do so with bulked-up Republican majorities in both Houses and a president ready to lay out an ambitious legislative agenda.
Republicans added to their decade-long hold on the House of Representatives, winning 229 seats and leading in four others. That could give them more than a 30-seat advantage over Democrats in the new Congress. Most of their gains yesterday came from Texas, where redrawn Congressional districts spelled doom for four Democratic incumbents, including veterans Martin Frost and Charles Stenholm.
But the biggest Congressional casualty among Democrats was their Senate leader, Tom Daschle. For more than two decades, he had defied the political odds, winning two terms in the House and three in the Senate while representing heavily-Republican South Dakota. But yesterday, Daschle narrowly lost reelection to former Congressman John Thune.
SEN.- ELECT JOHN THUNE: I want to say thank you to Sen. Daschle for his many contributions to public service and for a hard fought campaign. Tom Daschle has given 30 years of his life to public service, and for that, all South Dakotans owe him a big debt of gratitude. (Applause)
KWAME HOLMAN: This morning, Sen. Daschle called Thune to congratulate him and then spoke to supporters in Sioux Falls.
SEN.TOM DASCHLE: I ran for the House of Representatives in ’78, as some of you remember. Some of you are way too young to remember, but as I think back, all the way from that election through the elections ever since all the way to this one, I ran for the same reason — a belief in what we can do together, a belief in our people, an excitement about having the honor to work in public service and to consider all of you and all of the people of our state our extended family.
Together I still believe there is nothing we can’t do.
KWAME HOLMAN: Daschle was the only Senate Democrat to lose yesterday, but five other seats vacated by retiring Democrats were swept by Republicans. In North Carolina, Congressman Richard Burr knocked off former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles to grab the seat left open by John Edwards.
Jim DeMint did the same to state education secretary Inez Tenebaum in South Carolina. He’ll replace Ernest Fritz Hollings. Johnny Isakson filled Sen. Zell Miller’s seat in Georgia, David Vitter claimed John Breaux’s seat in Louisiana and former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez took the Florida seat vacated by Sen. Bob Graham.
One of the Democrats’ few shining moments happened in Illinois, where State Senator Barack Obama easily defeated former presidential candidate Alan Keyes and will replace retiring Republican Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Obama will be the only black member of the new Senate and just the third since reconstruction.
BARACK OBAMA: I don’t know about you, but I’m still fired up!
KWAME HOLMAN: And in Colorado, Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar outlasted Republican beer magnate Peter Coors to fill the seat vacated by Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
But those Democratic gains yesterday were outnumbered by losses, and Republicans expect to hold a 55-44 margin over the Democrats when the new Senate convenes in January.