Although Reid emerged victorious from a tough battle and will continue his tenure in the Senate, he is poised to lead a Senate that will be very different.
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 knew 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.
The economy was a major factor in Americans' decision to go to the polls.
The election also became a referendum on Washington, as Democratic incumbents faced significant losses. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, became casualties of that sentiment, suffering losses at the hands of their Republican counterparts.
The last time a Republican held the Senate seat occupied by Lincoln in Arkansas was 1879.
The GOP 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 retired after occupying the seat for 18 years. Republicans also gained a heavily-prized seat in the state of Pennsylvania as more Democratic incumbents fell prey to voter discontent.
The Tea Party scored major victories in an election dominated by the country's economic woes. Republican Marco Rubio won the Senate race in Florida by a wide margin, as did Rand Paul in Kentucky.
In Indiana, Tea Party favorite Dan Coats defeated Democrat Rep. Brad Ellsworth in a race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh, and incumbent Sen. Jim DeMint won 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 Tuesday night. "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.
Republican Christine O' Donnell, who received the most news coverage of the 2010 candidates, lost to Democrat Chris Coons in Delaware.
In New York, another controversial race dominated by scandals, Tea Party-backed Carl Paladino also lost, to Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Exit polls showed strong discontent against Obama in red states and even a surprising amount in his home state of Illinois, where 48 percent disapproved of the president's performance, compared with 51 percent who approved of him. Voters have been hard hit by the economy, with four in 10 saying someone in their household had lost a job or been laid off in the past two years, higher than the three in 10 nationally who said the same.