GOP on track to hold house majority

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Midterm Election 2014 - Vote - Midterms
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GOP on track to hold house majority
LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 4: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) celebrates with his wife Elaine Chao at his election night event November 4, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell defeated Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 04: Democratic Senate candidate and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY) speaks to supporters following her defeat to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) November 4, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky. McConnell's victory will leave him as the likely Senate Majority Leader in a potential new Republican majority of the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 4: U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) celebrates with his wife Elaine Chao at his election night event November 4, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky. McConnell defeated Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue talks with members of the media during a gathering for his son and Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue at the the InterContinental Buckhead on November 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Perdue is running in a tight race against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn. (Photo by Jason Getz/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 4: Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue greets members of his family during a gathering for his son and Republican U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue at the the InterContinental Buckhead on November 4, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Perdue is running in a tight race against Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn. (Photo by Jason Getz/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 04: U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette meets with the reporters before the start of the Democratic election event. Democrat Party election night at the Westin November 4, 2014 in Denver. (Photo by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
BROOKLYN, IA - NOVEMBER 4: Democratic Senate Candidate Bruce Braley's mother Marcia Braley (L) casts her ballot at the Community Center November 4, 2014 in Braley's hometown of Brooklyn, Iowa. Braley is in a tight race against Republican Senate Candidate Joni Ernst. (Photo by Steve Pope/Getty Images)
Former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, right, talks with a supporter as he arrives an election-night party for his daughter, Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville, Ky.,Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville, Ky.,Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., holds a sign he said was given him by his father former Sen. David Pryor at a rally for campaign volunteers and workers in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. Pryor is being challenged by Republican Congressman Tom Cotton. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., speaks during a political rally in Little Rock, Ark., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. Pryor is being challenged by Republican Congressman Tom Cotton. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., right, is interviewed as his wife Anna watches in Conway, Ark., Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. Cotton is challenging U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., in the Nov. 4, election. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, answers a question during a televised debate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., is interviewed at a Real Clear Politics event in Little Rock, Ark., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., left, greets Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, far right, as Green Party candidate Mark Swaney walks past after a televised debate at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark., Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, and his wife Gail Huff greet volunteers on election day from the Republican field office, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Dover, N.H. Brown is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown gives a thumbs up as he calls voters on election day from the Republican field office, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Dover, N.H. Brown is trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
North Carolina Republican Senate candidate, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, right, greets a voter at a polling place in Charlotte, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014. Tillis is running against democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Republican Senate candidate and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis talks to a voter while making calls from his campaign office in Cornelius, N.C., Monday, Nov. 3, 2014. Tillis is running against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, left, and Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), right, celebrate with supporters during a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014. Hagan is running for re-election against Republican candidate and North Carolina Speaker of the House Thom Tillis. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Maine, left, answers a question during a live televised debate with her Republican opponent, former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H. on Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
Former Massachusetts U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire waves with his wife Gail Huff as they board a bus at his campaign headquarters in Manchester, N.H. Friday Oct. 31, 2014 before starting a state wide bus tour. Brown is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., left, and former Massachusetts Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown are seen Thursday Oct. 23, 2014 before a live televised U.S. Senate debate hosted by NH1 News on WBIN TV in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
KANSAS CITY, KS October 31: Kansas U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts shares a laugh at the 'Vote the Kansas way bus tour' campaign rally at the Kansas speedway on October 31, 2014 in Kansas City Kansas (Photo by Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans held a commanding edge in the House on Tuesday, on track to pad their majority at near historic levels and claim long-held Democratic seats in the South.

The GOP won more than 160 seats as polls closed in the East and Midwest and was certain to surpass 218 if incumbents prevailed as expected in the West. Republican challenger Evan Jenkins, a Democrat-turned-Republican state senator, knocked out 19-term Rep. Nick Rahall, one of the last white Democrats who had survived despite the GOP stranglehold on the South.

Republican businessman Rick Allen prevailed over another Southern Democrat, five-term Rep. John Barrow of Georgia.

Republicans capitalized on growing dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama as voters took out their frustration on the party controlling the White House. The pervasive malaise nationwide also dragged down Democrats.

Aggressive in the midterms, Republicans won the seat of a retiring moderate Democrat in North Carolina and knocked out another Democrat in Florida. Challengers had the edge in two Democratic seats in Illinois, Obama's adopted state.

Some two dozen Democratic incumbents were in jeopardy but just a handful of Republicans faced competitive races as the 2010 GOP romp gave the party the upper hand in redrawing congressional districts favorable to Republicans.

In one bright spot for the Democrats, Gwen Graham, daughter of a former senator and governor, Bob Graham, knocked out two-term Rep. Steve Southerland in a Florida Panhandle district. Southerland's all-male fundraiser and quip about Graham attending lingerie parties doomed his re-election bid.

Obama's low approval ratings, around 40 percent, were a drag on Democrats, as was the electorate's unease with the Islamic State group threat, Ebola outbreak and job losses. Promising economic signs of a drop in the unemployment rate and cheaper gasoline failed to help the president's party, which typically loses seats in midterm elections.

The GOP, which currently controls 234 seats, was widely expected to exceed its tea party-boosted total of 242 seats in 2010. Republicans were likely to match the 246 of 1947-1949 when another Democrat, Harry S. Truman, occupied the White House. Democrats still hold the modern-day edge for most seats - 292 - in 1979.

"If we do, we're up in territory we've not seen," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. "You're in pretty thin oxygen when you're up there as a Republican."

Republicans purposely lowered expectations at a gain of five to eight seats, but privately some said anything less than a net of a dozen seats would be a disappointment.

A solid GOP majority means Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed while Republicans would hold more committee seats to guide the party agenda. Republicans are counting on partnering with a GOP-led Senate.

Boehner raised $102 million to ensure that Republicans would tighten their grip on the House.

For Obama, a dozen House losses would be an ignominious distinction. The president, whose party lost 63 seats in 2010, would become the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, surpassing Truman's 74.

National Democrats worked furiously to keep the losses at a minimum, outraising Republicans $172 million to $131 million. But they were outspent by GOP-leaning outside groups that targeted Democrats, pumping $7 million against first-term Rep. Ami Bera in California.

Here's a look at some of the most noteworthy contests in the country:

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BALLOT REMATCH

The rival had a familiar face as Republicans in New York, New Hampshire, Arizona and Illinois challenged Democrats in a half dozen rematches. First-term Reps. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., and Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., faced former GOP lawmakers Bob Dold and Nan Hayworth, who had her gay son in a last-minute ad question the labeling of his mom as a tea party extremist. Maloney is one of the openly gay members of Congress.

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CANTOR FALLOUT

The election is certain to provide surprises with Republicans and Democrats pointing to the high number of undecided voters in the closing days. However, it's hard to imagine any result topping the June primary loss of Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to little-known and underfunded professor Dave Brat. Giant-slayer Brat cruised to victory in the Richmond-area district.

Cantor was the lone Jewish Republican in the House. At the tip of New York's Long Island, state lawmaker Lee Zeldin hopes to be the House's new Jewish Republican, but he's locked in a close race with six-term Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop.

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REPUBLICAN WOMEN

Republicans have struggled to win over female voters in presidential elections. Two likely House winners are certain to help with the GOP's image. In Utah, Mia Love would be the first black female Republican while in New York, 30-year-old Elise Stefanik, a former aide in President George W. Bush's administration, would be the youngest House member.

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OTHER ELECTIONS

Two-term Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who faces a 20-count indictment on tax fraud and other charges, grabbed an early lead over Brooklyn Democrat Domenic Recchia in a district straddling the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. In Louisiana, Republican Rep. Vance McAllister, who was caught on tape kissing a married aide, trailed in his re-election bid.


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