A Republican tide ripped the Senate away from Democrats on Tuesday, according to CNN projections, giving the GOP full control of Congress and the power to pin down President Barack Obama during his last two years in office.
The thumping upends the balance of power between the White House and Capitol Hill only six years after Obama’s Democrats swept to power and marginalized Republicans in a rush to reform health care, Wall Street and pass a huge stimulus package.
Now, it’s Democrats who will take the back seat on Capitol Hill, relying mostly on the power of the filibuster to stymie Republicans and keep Obama’s legacy intact.
“For too long, this administration has tried to tell the American people what is good for them and then blame somebody else when their policies didn’t work out,” Mitch McConnell, who is expected to become the next Senate majority leader, said in a victory speech.
House Speaker John Boehner said he is “humbled by the responsibility the American people have placed with us.”
“But this is not a time for celebration,” he said. “It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has controlled the chamber since 2007, congratulated Republicans on their victory.
“The message from voters is clear: they want us to work together,” Reid said. “I look forward to working with Senator McConnell to get things done for the middle class.”
Democratic fears of a rough night came true, as party candidates struggled to defend seats won in the 2008 Obama wave in conservative territory, and couldn’t get out from under an unpopular president limping through his second term.
Republicans sent an early signal of intent when Mitch McConnell, who is now expected to fulfill his ambition to become Senate majority leader next year, quickly dispatched his opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky.
The GOP then piled up wins in Colorado, Iowa, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia and North Carolina — all seats that had been in Democratic hands — to hit their magic number of six net gains.
They also managed to hold on to seats in Kansas and Georgia, which had threatened to fall from their grasp and complicate the Senate math.
Republicans, who also widened their majority in the House of Representatives, will now look with some optimism on the 2016 presidential election.
But Democrats will console themselves with a more favorable Senate map in two years time and the belief that shifting demographics and an unresolved war between the Republican grassroots and the party establishment will make the next presidential race a tough climb for the GOP.
Adding to the bad for Democrats, Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is having a tougher ride than expected against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in a state Democrats had thought was reliably theirs after Obama won it twice.
The Democratic loss in Colorado, where Sen. Mark Udall went down to Republican Cory Gardner, was particularly significant.
The party had believed that Colorado’s legions of young people, women and Hispanic voters had turned the state solidly blue. Udall’s loss also challenges Obama’s suggestion earlier Tuesday that Democrats only lost because they faced an almost impossible map of Senate re-election races in solid Republican territory.
In Florida, top officials with both campaigns tell CNN’s Mark Preston that Charlie Crist has called Florida Gov. Rick Scott to concede. Earlier in the night, a judge denied a request from Crist to extend voting in Broward County by two hours because of several breakdowns in voting systems.
Runoff elections, meanwhile, will be needed in Louisiana, according to a CNN projection, after neither Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu or GOP challenger Bill Cassidy reached the 50% threshold to win outright.
Republican Joni Ernst has won the race for Iowa’s U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, defeating Democratic challenger Bruce Braley, according to a CNN projection
Several key governor’s races also were being decided.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf unseated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a marquee race, CNN projected. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback is in danger of losing amid a backlash against his hardcore conservatism. And liberal Massachusetts could elect a Republican governor.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich easily won reelection in a perennial presidential swing state, a result that could build buzz for a possible White House run.
CNN’s Miguel Marquez, Nick Valencia, Paul Vercammen, Mary Kay Mallonnee and Ashley Killough contributed to this story.