Although Democrats, who needed a net gain of 25 seats to reclaim the majority, spent hundreds of millions of dollars attacking the "tea party Congress," early returns showed they were not making enough inroads in the eastern half of the nation to make up that ground. A veteran Democratic incumbent was knocked off in Kentucky, while touted challengers were in neck-and-neck races. Democrats remained hopeful that, once key targeted races in the West were tallied, they could produce an overall net gain of at least a handful of seats.
After casting his ballot in the southwestern Ohio district he has represented for 22 years, Boehner vowed to continue the conservative track that House Republicans have taken the past two years, arguing the results validated their approach.
"For two years, our majority in the House has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, and borrows too much . . . The American people want solutions — and tonight, they've responded by renewing our majority," Boehner said in a victory address in Washington.
The Democratic defeat left in doubt the political future of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Calif., who for months had publicly and privately predicted huge gains for Democrats and a possible recapture of the chamber's majority. Pelosi allies have signaled that she may relinquish her leadership role if President Obama were reelected and Senate Democrats remained in charge.
House Democrats declared "the end of the tea party" before election returns began coming in Tuesday night. Their strategists pointed to the difficult reelection fights for several of the most outspoken conservatives in the House, including Bachmann, Walsh and West.
Democrats also noted that many others who rode in on tea party support two years ago tried to reposition themselves as mainstream Republicans to face this year's electorate.