Throughout the evening, in race after race, Republican challengers defeated Democratic incumbents, despite being at significant fundraising disadvantages. Republican-oriented independent groups invariably came to the rescue, helping level of the playing field, including in Florida's 24th Congressional District, in which Sandy Adams defeated Rep. Suzanne Kosmas; Virginia's 9th Congressional District, where Boucher, a 14-term incumbent, lost to Morgan Griffith; and Texas' 17th Congressional District, in which Edwards, who was seeking his 11th term, succumbed to Bill Flores.
Democrats argued that the Republican triumph was far from complete, pointing to their own victories, particularly in the Senate race in Delaware, where Chris Coons defeated Christine O'Donnell, whose candidacy became a symbol of a year where unorthodox political candidates swept onto the ballot in Republican primary contests. In West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat, triumphed over an insurgent Republican rival to fill the seat held for a half-century by Sen. Robert C. Byrd Jr. And in California, Sen. Barbara Boxer overcame a vigorous challenge from Carly Fiorina, a Republican.
But Democrats conceded that their plans to increase voter turnout did not meet expectations, party strategists said, and extraordinary efforts that Obama made in the final days of the campaign appeared to have borne little fruit.
The president flew to Charlottesville, Va., on Friday evening, for instance, in hopes of rallying Democrats to support Rep. Tom Perriello, a freshman who supported every piece of the administration's agenda, but he was defeated despite the president's appeals to Democrats in a state that he carried two years ago. Obama and the vice president rallied Ohio voters to support Gov. Ted Strickland on Sunday, but he fell to defeat.
In governors' races, Republicans were, as expected, showing gains in the nation's middle. They held onto governorships in Texas, Nebraska and South Dakota, and had seized seats now occupied by Democrats in Tennessee, Michigan and Kansas. Sam Brownback, a Republican, easily took the Kansas post that Mark Parkinson, a former Republican turned Democrat, is leaving behind.
Though Democrats, who before the election held 26 governors' seats compared to 24 for the Republicans, were expected to face losses, there were also bright spots. In New York, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo easily defeated the Republican, Carl P. Paladino, even as Republicans were expected to pick up seats in the state legislature and the congressional delegation. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick won a second term.
As election results rolled in, with Republicans picking up victories shortly after polls closed in states across the South, East and the Midwest, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other party leaders made urgent appeals through television interviews that there was still time for voters in other states to cast their ballots.
But the mood in Democratic quarters was glum, with few early signs of optimism in House or Senate races that were called early in the evening. Surveys that were conducted with voters across the country also provided little sense of hope for Democrats, with Republicans gaining a majority of independents, college-educated people and suburbanites — all groups that were part of the coalition of voters who supported Obama two years ago.
The election was seen as a referendum on Obama and the Democratic agenda, according to interviews with voters that were conducted for the National Election Pool, a consortium of television networks and the Associated Press, with a wide majority of the electorate saying that the country was seriously off track. Nearly nine in 10 voters said they were worried about the economy, and about four in 10 said their family's situation had worsened in the past two years.
The surveys found that voters were even more dissatisfied with Congress now than they were in 2006, when Democrats reclaimed control from the Republicans. Preliminary results also indicated an electorate far more conservative than four years ago, a sign of stronger turnout by people leaning toward Republicans.
Most voters said they believed Obama's policies would hurt the country in the long run, rather than help it, and a large share of voters said they supported the Tea Party movement, which has backed insurgent candidates all across the country.
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