WASHINGTON (AP) — Hardly anybody likes Congress. Yet despite public disgust with the gridlock between lawmakers and President Barack Obama that has dominated the past two years, Republicans remain in position to continue controlling the House for the next two years, probably by about the same margin as now.
Democrats had been hoping to add the 25 seats on Election Day that they would need to run the chamber, or at least gain a healthy number of districts. Now, after both sides' House candidates and their allies spent a record $1.1 billion campaigning, it appears Democrats may pick up a handful of seats or even lose some strength in Tuesday's voting.
Though all 435 House seats were in play, only around 60 featured truly competitive races.
Democrats targeted many of the 87 members of the GOP's tea party-backed freshman class of 2010 that swept the party to House control. Only about two dozen faced threatening challenges.
As Obama's lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney shriveled to a near draw as Election Day approached, Democrats' expectations for coattails that would boost their House candidates shrunk as well. Republicans, building off their enhanced control of statehouses, also did a robust job of protecting their incumbents and weakening Democrats when congressional district lines were redrawn after the 2010 census, especially in states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
The economy and jobs dominated the presidential campaign, but there was little evidence either party had harnessed those issues in a decisive way at the House level. Both sides agreed that this year's election lacked a nationwide wave that would give either side sweeping strength — as occurred when Democrats seized control in 2006 and expanded their majority in 2008, and Republicans snatched the chamber back in 2010.
Democrats had predicted that waning public support for the tea party movement and disgust with gridlock between Congress and Obama would cost Republicans seats. They also said the House GOP budget and its reshaping of the popular Medicare health care program would wound House Republican candidates — especially after the fiscal blueprint's author, GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, became his party's vice presidential nominee.