Democrats lose House, cling to Senate, Nikki Haley wins (Roundup)

By Arun Kumar, IANS
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - Days ahead of his visit to India, US President Barack Obama saw his Democratic party suffer a near rout. The Republicans wrested majority control of the US House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections but Democrats retained their hold of the Senate.

The other highlight of the electoral results was the victory of Indian-American Nikki Haley, daughter of Sikh immigrant parents from Amritsar who became the first woman to win the governor’s race in South Carolina. All six other Indian-Americans lost.

With results still coming in, the extent of the Republican takeover of the 435-member House was still not known. But CNN projected that Republicans would win at least 52 more House seats than they now hold to wipe out the Democratic majority of the past four years.

Only two years ago, the same millions across the US had given Obama a huge thumbs up, stunning the Republicans.

All 435 seats in the House and 37 seats in the Senate were up for grabs Tuesday as were 37 governorships and many state and local positions.

Republican John Boehner is likely to become the Speaker of the House — and the third most powerful politician in the US.

Addressing a victory rally in the Republican Party’s headquarters in Washington, Boehner said: “The American people have sent an unmistakeable message to (Obama) tonight, and that message is ‘change course’.”

Nikki Haley, the first Indian American woman to become a governor in the US, was born Nimrata (Nikki) Randhawa. She will be America’s second Indian-American governor after Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, also a Republican who won three years ago.

Republican candidates also were running strong in governors’ races. Democrats were guaranteed to hold at least 50 of the 100 Senate seats with a handful of close races still outstanding, according to CNN’s analysis of exit poll data.

Whatever the final make-up of the Senate, it will include no African-American members. The only current African-American senator, Roland Burris of Illinois, is retiring. None of the community’s three candidates won Tuesday.

In the House, Republicans picked up seats in a broad swath across the country, including victories over one-term Democrats who came to power in traditionally GOP districts in 2008.

Republicans needed a net gain of only three governorships Tuesday for a majority nationally. Often overshadowed during midterm campaigns, governorships can influence national politics by their influence in the redistricting of state electorates.

The last major landslide in a mid-term election came in 1994 when Republicans recaptured both the House and Senate two years into former president Bill Clinton’s term. Conservatives had then gained 54 House seats.

CNN showed that economy was the dominant issue for voters, and indicated that key constituencies shifted from supporting Democrats in 2008 to voting for Republicans this time.

One reason is likely opposition to the health care reform bill pushed through Congress over Republican opposition by Obama and Democratic leaders.

While Obama pledged the reforms would improve Medicare, Republican opponents warned of service cuts and higher costs.

Heated campaigning continued to the last minute Tuesday, with Obama and Bill Clinton urging Democrats and independents to hold off a Republican surge while Republicans promised to change how Washington runs.

In a last-minute bid to stem the losses, Obama made a round of radio interviews and sent out First Lady Michelle Obama and the charismatic Bill Clinton on the campaign trail.

“I want everyone to remember that you can’t shape your future if you don’t participate,” DPA quoted Obama as saying. “You’ve got to get out there and vote.”

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