With results still coming in, the extent of the Republican takeover of the 435-member House was still to be determined. projected that Republicans would win at least 60 more House seats than they currently hold to wipe out the Democratic majority of the past four years.
President Barack Obama called House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio to congratulate him. They had a brief but pleasant conversation, according to Boehner's aides. The two discussed working together to focus on the top priorities of the American people, which Boehner has identified as creating jobs and cutting spending. Boehner thanked the president for the call.
Republican candidates also were running strong in governors' races, while Democrats were guaranteed of holding at least 50 of the 100 Senate seats with a handful of close races still outstanding, according to the projections based on CNN's analysis of exit poll data.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, retained his Senate seat by defeating Republican Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite.
An energized conservative electorate, fueled by the anti-establishment Tea Party movement that emerged in 2009, helped Republicans to what could be their biggest gain in congressional elections in decades.
It's clear tonight who the real winners are, and it's the American people," said Boehner, who is expected to become House Speaker in January when the new GOP majority takes over.
"With their voices, the American people are demanding a new way forward in Washington," Boehner said, calling for conservative policies favored by the Tea Party such as cutting spending and reducing the size of government.
Tea Party-backed Republicans Rand Paul in Kentucky and Marco Rubio in Florida won their Senate races, while another GOP candidate, John Boozman, will defeat incumbent Democrat Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas, according to the projections.
In Indiana, conservative Republican Dan Coats was the projected winner to take over the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Evan Bayh, while the GOP's Ron Johnson toppled Democratic incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. The projected victories by Coats, Boozman, Johnson and John Hoeven in North Dakota gave Republicans four pick-ups in the Senate.
However, Democrat Chris Coons was the projected winner over Republican Christine O'Donnell, another Tea Party-supported candidate, in Delaware's Senate race for the seat formerly held for decades by Vice President Joe Biden. In Connecticut, Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will defeat Republican Linda McMahon, the former professional wrestling executive, for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Chris Dodd.
Another big Democratic victory came in West Virginia, where Gov. Joe Manchin was projected to win the Senate seat formerly held by the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, who died earlier this year.
The projected victories by Coons, Manchin and Blumenthal were vital for the Democrats' chances to retain their majority in the Senate.
Exit poll data analyzed by CNN showed the economy was the dominant issue on the minds of voters and indicated that key constituencies shifted from supporting Democrats in 2008 to voting for Republicans this time.
For example, senior citizens who comprised 24 percent of the total electorate supported Republicans much more strongly on Tuesday than they did two years ago, the exit polling showed. According to the data, 39 percent of senior citizens voted for Democrats, compared with 49 percent in 2008, while 58 percent supported Republicans, compared with 49 percent two years ago.
One reason is likely opposition to the health care reform bill pushed through Congress over Republican opposition by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders. While Obama pledged the reforms would improve Medicare, Republican opponents warned of service cuts and higher costs.
Boehner already has signaled little appetite to negotiate with the White House or congressional Democrats, saying last week that "this is not a time for compromise."
In the Senate, legislative gridlock is likely as Republicans strengthen their current minority of 41 seats. Obama and Democrats accuse Senate Republicans of using obstruction tactics as a political tool, showing the distrust and animosity that already exists.
Democrats are also wary of a recent comment by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who told the National Journal, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
The first test of a new relationship will come in mid-November, when Congress convenes a post-election lame-duck session to try to clear unfinished legislation before the newly elected Congress gathers in January. Among other issues, lawmakers must decide whether and how to extend Bush-era tax cuts.