Democrats on brink of 'great' win


WASHINGTON -- Democratic hopes to take control of at least one house of Congress appeared to rise Tuesday as voters seemed to take their disgust with the Iraq War and political scandals to the polls.

While it was too early at press time to tell which way the election would go, early exit polls appeared to favor Democratic attempts to take over Congress. At 10:54 p.m. EST, NBC appeared to be the first to project that the Democrats had won the House. MSNBC called it at 10:56 p.m., followed by ABC at 10:57 p.m. and CNN at 11:14.

A shift in control of the House to the Democrats would see changes in all of the leadership posts and the committee chairmanships of the Judiciary Commerce and Ways and Means committees would change (HR 10/31).

A similar switch would occur in the Senate as the key Judiciary, Commerce and Finance committees as well as the leadership posts would go to Democrats.

While most entertainment industry executives have relationships on both sides of the aisle, the industry is usually considered a liberal enclave.

As of press time Tuesday, four Republican congressmen in the conservative Ohio River Valley lost re-election bids, while several other GOP incumbents struggled to fend off fierce Democratic challenges.

"We are on the brink of a great Democratic victory," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat in line to become the first female Speaker of the House if her party ends the GOP's 12-year reign.

Democrats ousted Reps. John Hostettler, Chris Chocola and Mike Sodrel in Indiana as well as Anne Northup in Kentucky, while GOP Rep. Ron Lewis in Kentucky also fought to hold his seat.

Surveys of voters at polling places nationwide suggested that Democrats were winning the support of independents by a margin of almost 2-to-1, and middle-class voters were leaving Republicans behind, the Associated Press reported.

The same exit polls found that six in 10 voters said they disapproved of the way President Bush is handling his job; about the same percentage opposed the war in Iraq. They were more inclined to vote for Democratic candidates than for Republicans.

In even larger numbers, about three-quarters of voters said scandals mattered to them in deciding how to vote, and they, too, were more likely to side with Democrats. The surveys were conducted by the Associated Press and the TV networks.

History also worked against the GOP. Since World War II, the party in control of the White House has lost an average of 31 House seats and six Senate seats in the second midterm election of a president's tenure in office.

Democrats would have to gain six seats in the Senate to secure a majority. Most analysts believed that would be more difficult than gaining the House.

But Democrats held on to a key seat in New Jersey as the AP declared Sen. Robert Menendez a winner.

Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, were defeated by Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown and state Treasurer Bob Casey, respectively.

The critical Senate race in Virginia was still neck and neck at press time, and Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin beat Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele in Maryland's Senate race.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2000 but running as an independent after losing the Democratic primary, kept his seat from Connecticut.

The Senate will have another independent in Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an eight-term congressman who calls himself a socialist. Both Lieberman and Sanders have said they will align themselves with Democrats.

Sheldon Whitehouse was projected as a winner over Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island.