WASHINGTON—Republicans regained control of Congress in yesterday's election, preserving their majority in the House of Representatives and sweeping back to power in the Senate.
It was a strong showing for President Bush and the Republicans, though they did not gain a large number of seats in either house of Congress - reflecting a nation that remains split almost evenly down party lines.
The GOP's stronghold was solidified after prevailing in a squeaker in Minnesota, where Senate votes were counted until early this morning. The party did not prevail in another close contest, in South Dakota.
Republicans now will hold 51 Senate seats, plus Vice President Dick Cheney's tie-breaking vote, compared with the 46 seats Democrats will hold and the independent slot held by Vermont Sen. Jim Jeffords.
In the House, Tuesday's voting raise the GOP's tally to 226 seats, compared with 204 Democratic spots and four undecided seats.
In Minnesota, Norm Coleman, Bush's recruit to challenge incumbent Sen. Paul Wellstone, narrowly defeated former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, the Democrat named to the ballot after Wellstone's death in a plane crash 11 days before the election.
"I told him that being in the U.S. Senate is the best job in America, and I think he will love it," Mondale said in a concession speech today in St. Paul about 10:30 a.m. He had lost in a 49 percent-to-50 percent vote ratio. "I have no regrets."
Mondale said the one-week campaign "gave me strength. I love this state. I love Minnesotans. ... You treated me decently. You listened to me. You treated me with respect. You've made your decision, and I respect it."
He also criticized the heavy Democratic partisanism that prevailed at last week's memorial service for Wellstone. "We went through unspeakable tragedy," Mondale said. "The eulogizers were hurt the most, and it doesn't justify it. We all make mistakes."
The former vice president, at 75, declaring that this was "obviously" his final political campaign, said: "We kept the faith, we stayed the course, we fought the good fight -- and everyone should be proud of it."
In South Dakota, Sen. Tim Johnson, the Democrat incumbent, held on to his seat by a 50 percent-to-49 percent ratio, besting Rep. John Thune, the GOP challenger hand-picked by Bush. A recount will be held.
"The final results are in, the ballots have been counted," Johnson said in a speech to supporters in Sioux Falls just before 11 a.m. "It's time for us South Dakotans to come together to move our agenda forward."
In Washington earlier today, a White House spokesman said the president and his party had "made history" and Republicans were "feeling good" about their chances of adding seats in the House.
"It is clear President Bush's popularity and hard work on behalf of candidates helped them," press secretary Ari Fleischer said.
If Republicans wind up gaining House seats when all the votes are tallied, it would be the first time that a Republican president's party increased its membership in the House in an election at the midpoint of a president's term.
Adding to the election-night suspense: a breakdown of the computerized system that TV networks and newspapers have come to rely on to help project winners and losers. That failure put greater reliance on actual vote counts, left analysts in the dark about voters' intentions and slowed the ability of news organizations to determine the outcome of key contests around the country.
On a day when Republicans won the Maryland governorship for the first time since the 1960s, a White House-led push produced a stunning GOP victory in Georgia.
Rep. Saxby Chambliss unseated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland and Republican Sonny Perdue, a former state senator, registering one of the year's biggest upsets, defeated Gov. Roy Barnes to become the first Republican elected governor of Georgia in more than a century.