Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Projected to Win, Retain Powerful Position

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will continue his tenure in the Senate, according to ABC News projections, after a night in which Democrats took heavy battering from Republicans in midterm congressional elections.

For Reid, who has been in public office for 40 years, the race against Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, once a virtual unknown, was a tough one.

Fifty-five percent of Nevada voters in preliminary exit poll results said they disapproved of the job he is doing in the Senate, and 56 percent said they thought the Senate majority leader had been in Washington too long.

At the same time, he won support on other grounds. A narrow majority of voters, 52 percent, said they preferred an insider who knows how to get things done over an outsider "who wants to shake things up." And when it came to picking the one candidate quality that mattered most to them, Nevada's voters were divided: 31 percent said they wanted change, but 29 percent said they were looking for someone who understood their needs, and nearly as many were looking for experience.

Republicans collected six Senate seats held by their opponents but failed to win enough blue states to gain control of the Senate.

This is the first time since 1930 that one chamber of Congress has changed hands without the other.

Republicans needed an additional 10 seats to gain a majority in the Senate but preliminary results show they will be unable to achieve that.

Across the country: Republicans have so far gained Senate seats in Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Wisconsin and Illinois. They've held on to Senate seats in South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Arizona, Utah and Idaho.

Democrats have so far held on to their Senate seats in Nevada, California, West Virginia, Hawaii, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Oregon.

From Arkansas to Wisconsin, Democratic incumbents faced significant losses. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., is projected to become the second Democratic senator to be defeated tonight, after Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who became a casualty earlier this evening, according to ABC News projections.

The GOP appears to have scored a key victory in another Democratic stronghold, North Dakota, where Gov. John Hoeven will become the first GOP senator from the state in 24 years. The Republican will replace retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan, a moderate Democrat who has occupied that seat for 18 years. Republicans gained a heavily-prized seat in the state of Pennsylvania as more Democratic incumbents fell prey to voter discontent today.

GOP candidate Pat Toomey is projected to defeat Democrat Joe Sestak, who defeated longtime Sen. Arlen Specter in a bitter battle earlier this year.

California emerged as one bright spot for Democrats, where Sen. Barbara Boxer, another Democrat who ran a tight race against ex-Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina, retained her seat.

The Tea Party has scored major victories in an election dominated by U.S. economic woes. Republican Marco Rubio will win the Florida Senate race by a wide margin and GOP candidate Rand Paul will win the Kentucky Senate race, according to ABC News exit-poll results.

In Indiana, according to ABC News projections, Tea Party favorite Dan Coats will defeat Democrat Rep. Brad Ellsworth in a race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, and incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint will win another term in South Carolina.

"Tonight, there's a Tea Party tidal wave and we're sending a message to" lawmakers in Washington," Paul said in his victory speech. "It's a message on fiscal sanity, it's a message on limited constitutional government and balanced budgets."

Two of the most high-profile races of the election season, however, appeared to be less favorable for the Tea Party. GOP Delaware candidate Christine O' Donnell, who received the most news coverage of the 2010 candidates, will lose to Democrat Chris Coons, ABC News projections show.

In New York, another controversial race dominated by scandals, Tea Party-backed Carl Paladino is also projected to lose to Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

Democrats gained a key victory in West Virginia, where Gov. Joe Manchin is projected to win, and in Connecticut, where Richard Blumenthal is projected to defeat World Wrestling Entertainment's Linda McMahon. While 88 percent were worried about the economy in Connecticut, they didn't take it out on the Democrat as voters did elsewhere; he won these voters by 54 to 45 percent.

In a victorious statement, minority Senate leader Mitch McConnell painted tonight's results as a referendum on President Obama's agenda.

"Americans have been speaking out for two years to cut wasteful Washington spending, reduce the size and scope of the federal bureaucracy, and help create sustainable, private-sector jobs," he said. "While Democrats in Washington too often acted as if they didn't hear the message, tonight the voters ensured their message was heard loud and clear."

Preliminary exit polls show strong discontent against Obama in red states and even a surprising number in his home state of Illinois, where 48 percent disapprove of the president's performance, compared with 51 percent who approve of him. Voters have been hard hit by the economy, with four in 10 saying someone in their household has lost a job or been laid off in the past two years, higher than the three in 10 nationally who say the same.

Obama carried Colorado with 53 percent of the vote in 2008; fewer of voters now, 47 percent, approve of the job he is doing as president.

Older voters have voted for the Democratic candidate in each of the past three Senate races, including voting for Feingold in 2004 by a 14-point margin, but not this time. Those age 65 and older went for Johnson, 54-46 percent.

In Kentucky, 52 percent of voters said Paul's views were too extreme but the libertarian-leaning ophthalmologist won on the back of strong anti-President Obama sentiment in the state. By a 23-point margin, voters there said they were casting their ballots in opposition to Obama, with 62 percent disapproving of Obama's job performance overall, according to ABC News exit polls.

The sentiment was similar in West Virginia, which has voted Republican in the last three presidential elections. Seven in 10 disapprove of Obama's job performance, with approval at 30 percent. Nearly half of West Virginia voters said their vote was to express opposition to Obama, while far fewer -- 14 percent -- said they voted to express support for the president.

"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."

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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.

Read our full preliminary exit poll analysis.

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.

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