WASHINGTON - Republicans had renewed control of the House within their grasp early today as the two parties traded gains from the Eastern Seaboard to the Southwest.
Shortly past 10 p.m. Tucson time, Democrats had knocked off nine GOP House members - including six members of the huge tea-party-backed House GOP freshman class of 2010. That included four Republican incumbents from Illinois and one each from Maryland, Florida, New York, New Hampshire and Texas.
Republicans nearly matched that as their candidates defeated one Democratic incumbent apiece in Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, and picked up an open seat each in Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, and Oklahoma held in this Congress by Democrats who retired or ran for another office.
With almost two-thirds of the 435 House races called by The Associated Press, Republicans had won 209 seats and were leading in 28 more.
A party needs 218 seats to control the House. It seemed likely the party mix in the new House would resemble the current one, which Republicans control 242-193, including two GOP and three Democratic vacancies. The pickups were so evenly divided that it was unclear if either party would add to its numbers overall.
Democrats had taken 155 districts and led in 39 others.
Even before renewed GOP control was clinched, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio - re-elected to his seat without opposition - claimed victory and laid down a marker for upcoming battles against President Obama, who was re-elected to a second term in the White House.
"The American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority," he said at a gathering of Republicans in Washington. "The American people also made clear there's no mandate for raising tax rates."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., refused to concede. She told Democrats rallying a few blocks away from the GOP rally where Boehner spoke that by evening's end, Democrats would end up "exceeding everyone's expectations and perhaps achieving 25," the number of added seats Democrats would need to gain House control.
Though seven GOP freshmen were defeated, 65 of them were re-elected by late Tuesday. Six others were leading in their races, but four were trailing.
An exit poll of voters showed that just 21 percent said they backed the tea party, which had fueled the big GOP House gains in 2010.
Embroiled in an unexpectedly tight re-election race was conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
One victor was Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was his party's vice presidential nominee on the ticket with the losing presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Another winner was Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., the Chicago lawmaker who took medical leave from Congress in June and has been at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for treatment of bipolar disorder. His only campaigning has been by automated phone calls to voters.