Opposition Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives, emerging from Tuesday's midterm congressional elections with their first majority in the 435-member body since 1994. Control of the Senate will be decided by two races that remain too close to call.
In exit polls across the nation, voters said their top concerns were corruption in government and the war in Iraq. Those issues appeared to work against the governing Republican Party, which lost its 12-year majority in the House of Representatives.
California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become America's first female Speaker of the House, had a message for President Bush as she addressed party faithful at Democratic headquarters in Washington:
"And so we say to the president, 'Mr. President, we need a new direction in Iraq,'" she says.
Control of the House will allow Democrats to set the congressional agenda. Before Tuesday's vote, many Democrats had pledged to launch committee investigations of the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and other matters.
Democrats also made gains in the Senate, taking Republican-held seats in Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. In his victory speech, Pennsylvania Senator-elect Bob Casey noted voter concern about recent congressional scandals and the need for integrity in government.
"I really believe that public service is a trust given in faith and accepted in honor. And I do that tonight. I accept that (responsibility) with honor," Casey says.
One bright spot for Republicans came in the southern state of Tennessee, where Bob Corker defeated a strong Democratic challenger to retain Republican control of a seat being vacated by Majority Leader Bill Frist. Corker acknowledged that Republicans were at a distinct disadvantage at the polls this year.
"There was a strong headwind working against us. But in the end the choice belonged to the good people of Tennessee," Korker says.
The current tally has Senate control split 49-to-49 between Democrats and Republicans, with races in Virginia and Montana too close to call. The Democratic tally includes Connecticut incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman, who ran and won as an independent after losing in his party's primary election.
Should Democrats take control of the Senate, President Bush would likely find it more difficult to get judicial and other nominees approved by the chamber.
Democrats also won several governorships previously held by Republicans. But in California, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger won re-election and, in his victory speech, alluded to his Hollywood movie career.
"What a fantastic evening, you know I love doing sequels!," he says.
Losses for the governing party are not unusual in midterm congressional elections. Republicans have controlled the House for the duration of President Bush's time in office, and the Senate for all but Mr. Bush's first two years. The president is expected to speak about the elections later in the day Wednesday.