Republicans punished in Congressional race

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The Independent US

The Republican party was headed for a rout in both houses of the US Congress last night as Democratic candidates won four new Senate seats and voters punished the party of President George Bush.

The moribund US economy and seemingly endless war in Iraq drove voter anger with the Republicans. The Democrats were hoping to pick up nine seats in all, to strengthen their Senate majority from 51-49 to a practicably unbeatable 60-40. The traditionally conservative South, the strongest redoubt of the republican Party made such an outcome had to predict.

In New Hampshire, the Republican Senator John Sununu was beaten by the Democratic candidate Jeanne Shaheen a man she refereed to as Bush's "evil twin." There was more trouble in the former Republican bastion of North Carolina where the party suffered a major reversal when one of its biggest names, Senator Elizabeth Dole was defeated by Kay Hagan, a member of the state legislature.

In Virginia, the state's former Democratic Governor Mark Warner easily defeated the Republican Jim Gilmore and in New Mexico, Democrat Tom Udall was elected.

The Democrats were hoping to win 60 seats or even more in the 100-seat Senate making it close to impossible for the Republicans to block legislation by the filibuster tactic. A supermajority of 60 votes is enough to cut off long-winded debates designed to stop proposals being voted on in the Senate.

In an Associated Press exit poll, six out of ten voters said the stagnating economy was the most important issue facing the country. Voters across the country said they thought Barack Obama's Democrat's were better equipped to solve the country's problems. Fewer than one in 10 voters described John McCain's pet issues - Iraq, terrorism and energy – important.

Republicans were so nervous about their expected drubbing that they have been warning that a strongly Democratic House and Senate along with a Democratic president will lead to an unstoppable spending spree and higher taxes.

"No checks. No balances... a liberal agenda so scary its effects will be felt for a generation," the Republican Party warned in an advertisement last week against the threat of a liberal takeover of Washington.

In other contests the Democrat Al Franken, the former "Saturday Night Live" writer and actor Minnesota was in a tough race with the Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. In Alaska, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest serving Senate member who was convicted on corruption charges last month was in a tough re-election battle.