"Will the president take a lesson away from tonight?" House Tea Party caucus founder Michele Bachmann said on ABC News Now. "This is a profound repudiation of his policies."
Even though Democrats have maintained their majority, they are projected to lose their comfortable hold on the chamber, making it even more difficult to pass legislation on which there is little bipartisan compromise, such as energy and jobs.
Preliminary exit poll results underscored the economic distress defining the 2010 election. Eighty-eight percent of voters today said the national economy's in bad shape, nearly as many as the record 92 percent who said so two years ago. Only 14 percent say their own family's financial situation has improved since 2008.
And few see much respite: Compounding the political impact of the long downturn, 86 percent remain worried about the economy's direction in the next year, including half who are "very" worried.
The economy has deeply affected the broader public mood. Sixty-two percent say the country is seriously headed in the wrong direction (a record 74 percent said so in 2008, as the economy fell into the abyss). More broadly, 39 percent expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse than it is today, compared with 32 percent who say better.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who has been in the Senate for eight years, is embroiled in a race that has divided the Republican Party. She faces a tight race against Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate who astonished the Republican establishment by defeating Murkowski in the primary.
In recent weeks, the race between the two has narrowed as Miller faces questions about his past employment history and whether he broke his employer's rules as an attorney at the Fairbanks County Borough.
Amid concern about Miller's standing plummeting in the polls and Democrat Scott McAdams' gaining an edge, Republicans have shifted their allegiance to Murkowski, who was unceremoniously stripped of her post last month in the Senate leadership after she defied party leaders and announced her intention to wage a write-in campaign.
According to Alaska election officials, the write-in Senate candidate, which included Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, was leading by 39 percent of the vote, with 27 percent of precincts reporting. first name Miller had 34 percent of the vote and first name McAdams 25 percent.
The Alaska Division of Elections only counts the names of write-in candidates if they exceed THIS wording correct? names on the ballot or if the write-ins are within 0.5 percentage points of the leading candidate.
Officials will count misspelled names that show voter intention, but there are a number of other write-in candidates also on the ballot besides Murkowski.
ABC News' Gary Langer contributed to this report.