Furious and frustrated, Americans punished President Barack Obama's Democrats in midterm elections, passing control of the House of Representatives to Republicans and sending a blunt message of voter discontent to the White House.
Republicans scored the biggest party turnover in more than 70 years Tuesday with their win in the House, incomplete returns showed the GOP picked up at least 60 House seats and led for four more, far in excess of what was needed for a majority. About two dozen races remained too close to call.
"We're about to do the one thing the American people want done, and that is to fire Pelosi," an exultant Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican national committee said to wildly cheering supporters.
He was referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who stickhandled Mr. Obama's sweeping and controversial health-care reform.
John Boehner, the Ohio Republican who will replace Mrs. Pelosi as Speaker, sounded a warning to the President.
"I hope President Obama will respect the will of the people and change course," he said. Mr. Boehner offered co-operation but only if Mr. Obama was willing to slash spending. "This is not a time for celebration ... not when we have buried our children under a mountain of debt," Mr. Boehner said, his voice choking with emotion.
On Wednesday Mr. Boehner claimed mandate to roll back Obama's health care overhaul law, calling his party's success in narrowing the Democratic Senate majority proof that "the Obama-Pelosi agenda" was rejected by the American people.
"The American people were concerned about the government takeover of health care." He added, "I think it's important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity."
"If there's some tweaking we need to do with the healthcare bill, I'm ready for some tweaking," U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday said in an interview on CNN.
"But I'm not going to in any way denigrate the great work we did as a country in saving Americans from bankruptcy because of the insurance industry bankrupting them."
A chastened Mr. Obama planned a nationally televised news conference for Wednesday presumably to explain how he plans to deal with the new - and starkly changed - political landscape.
Even as the red tide of Republican gains surged westward, Democrats managed to retain their Senate majority, albeit shaved to a handful of seats. California's incumbent Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer's victory made it impossible for the Republicans to win the Senate.
The Republicans also gained at least six Senate seats in their night of triumph, in which the Tea Party made a big splash, sending prominent personalities, including Rand Paul from Kentucky and Florida's Marco Rubio, to take Senate seats in Washington. The arrival of those Tea Party radicals will complicate Mr. Obama's task of forging compromise with moderate Republicans in a now-divided Congress.
Many Republicans have pledged to repeal or eviscerate Obamacare, as they derisively refer to Mr. Obama's signal achievement of his first two years. Mr. Rand's early victory was the first inkling that Mr. Obama's Democrats were in for a long, miserable night.
"I have a message, a message from the people of Kentucky, a message that is loud and clear, we have come to take our government back," Mr. Paul told cheering supporters at a raucous victory party. "The American people are unhappy with what's going on in Washington, … tonight there's a Tea Party tidal wave and we are sending a message."
In Indiana, Republican Dan Coats, a former ambassador to Germany, took another previously-Democratic Senate seat. And in Ohio, the Republicans added another Senate seat when Rob Portman defeated Democratic Lt.-Gov. Lee Fisher.
In Florida, Mr. Rubio, a Tea Party favourite defeated Governor Charlie Crist, a moderate Republican forced to run as an independent after Mr. Rubio won the party's nomination, and Kendrick Meek for a Senate seat in the Sunshine State.
And in Illinois, Republican Mark Kirk won a bitter contest against Democratic state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for Mr. Obama's old seat. The President had made several campaign appearances for Mr. Giannoulias, including last Saturday and Sunday.