The opposition Democrats won control of the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday's Congressional elections. They also gained ground in the U.S. Senate with several key contests still too close to call. Republicans currently hold a majority in both chambers. VOA's Jim Bertel reports Tuesday's elections are widely seen as a referendum on national issues including the war in Iraq and the leadership of President Bush.
Opposition Democrats recaptured control of the U.S. House of Representatives in elections the Party framed as a referendum on President Bush and the war in Iraq. The Democratic victory makes Nancy Pelosi of California the new likely Speaker of the House, the country's first female House leader. "Today the American people voted for change and they voted for Democrats to take the country in a new direction and that is exactly what we intend to do."
All 435 House seats were open in Tuesday's midterm elections.
In the Senate, 33 seats were open with the Democratic Party picking up several key seats from Republican incumbents starting in Pennsylvania with the defeat of Republican Rick Santorum by Bob Casey.
In New Jersey, Democratic candidate Bob Menendez won a bitterly contested election over Republican Tom Kean Junior. "Tonight the people of New Jersey embraced a new direction for our nation and rejected the politics of personal destruction. Thank you New Jersey."
But control of the Senate may not be known until recounts occur in state's still too close to call. One of those is the state of Virginia, where Republican incumbent George Allen trailed his Democratic opponent Jim Webb by a small margin.
Allen told his supporters the fight would go on. "The point of the matter is, I've been through it, I think that the counting ... I know the counting will continue through the night, continue tomorrow. And I want to thank you all because I know you're going to be like a bunch of eagles and hawks watching how every one of these votes are accurately counted."
Dennis Johnson, a professor of Political Management at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. says Tuesday's results make a bold statement.
"It is certainly a testament that the public sentiment out there says, 'Mr. Bush, you're wrong, we're tired of you and we're tired of your policies and frankly we're tired of the people who are following you in the House and the Senate', and it's time for a change."
Exit polls of voters across the nation conducted by the Associated Press found a majority of voters said national issues mattered more than local issues. Nearly 60 percent of voters disapproved of the war in Iraq. Jeff Lenn, a voter in Virginia, is one of them. "We clearly are in a quagmire. We are in over our heads and we need some creative thinking about basically how to disengage."
Meredith Menser of Maryland backs President Bush on Iraq. "I voted Republican all the way because I think that the nation needs to refocus its conservative agenda and kind of keep in mind the issues that I think are important to the United States and really stay the course in Iraq."
Despite the importance of Iraq, even more voters said the economy and government corruption were very important to their votes.
Tuesday's vote was relatively smooth. But problems with electronic polling equipment forced officials to extend voting hours in some places. The F.B.I. is also investigating complaints that attempts were made in Virginia to keep some people away from voting.