Republicans on Tuesday captured governorships that had been held by Barack Obama's Democrats in Michigan, Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma, and hoped for many other statehouse gains as voters selected governors in more than two-thirds of the nation.
Yet there were a few bright spots for Democrats in the face of an anti-incumbent groundswell sweeping the country. New York Democrat Andrew Cuomo surged past tea party Republican Carl Paladino to win the governor's seat, the same post his father, Mario, had held two decades ago.
And the Democratic governors of Maryland, New Hampshire and Arkansas turned aside Republican challenges.
But most of the news for Democrats was gloomy, as the same wave that engulfed congressional Democrats took its toll on statehouses.
In a high-profile race into which both parties spent millions, Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has already served 10 years, defeated Democrat Bill White, a former mayor of Houston. Perry had aligned himself with the Sarah Palin wing of the Republican Party.
Democrats looked for some consolation prizes, hoping for a win by Democrat Jerry Brown to get his old job back as governor of California.
But clearly, this Election Day was not one Democrats were savoring, with anti-incumbent fever rampant and unemployment stuck for months at near 10 percent.
Historically, the party holding the White House has lost around five governorships in the first midterm election after a new president takes office. Analysts in both parties expected Democratic casualties to be higher this year. Republicans anticipated a net pickup of at least six and possibly as many as 12. Democrats hoped losses could be held to the smaller number.
Republicans eyed potential gains of governorships now held by Democrats across a wide swath of the industrial Midwest and Great Lakes, from Iowa to Pennsylvania. Besides having some of the nation's highest jobless rates, many of these those states have traditionally been presidential swing states.
The Republican Party fought hard to increase its foothold in New England, traditionally Democratic turf but this year very much in play. Republicans sought to claim governorships held by Democrats in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine and to extend Republican reigns in Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut.
Some 37 governorships were on the line _ a combination of the usual rotation plus races to fill unexpired terms and some states changing their election cycles.
Of these races, 24 were for "open" seats, ones in which no incumbent was running. Some incumbents were term-limited; others decided not to run in such hard economic times.
In California, Democrat Brown, currently the attorney general, was in a fierce battle with billionaire Republican Meg Whitman. The former CEO of eBay poured more than $150 million of her own money into the campaign, making it the most expensive nonpresidential race in the nation's history.
There are currently 26 Democratic governors and 24 Republicans.