Republicans rode a wave of voter discontent and conservative outrage to capture a House of Representatives majority from President Barack Obama's Democrats on Tuesday, rolling up their biggest gains since the Depression and ending the Democrats' reign after just four years.
The Republican party _ energized by the ultraconservative tea party movement and voter disillusionment with Obama, incumbents and high unemployment _ had netted 60 formerly Democratic seats and led in four more by early Wednesday, easily exceeding the 40 needed to gain a majority. Republicans piled up their biggest House gains since they added 80 seats in 1938.
A Republican takeover of the House will create a divided government, complicating Obama's agenda. Republicans have said they want to cut $100 billion in spending in a year and roll back Obama's overhauls of health care and financial regulations.
The Republican victory eclipsed their 54-seat pickup when they retook the House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years.
Democrats captured only three Republican-held seats.
By midmorning Wednesday, Republicans had captured 239 seats and were leading for four more, while Democrats had won 184 and led for eight.
Democrats now control the House by a 255-178 margin, with two vacancies. All 435 seats were on the ballot. The Democrats held their majority in the Senate, thought it was reduced.
The election was a remarkable turnabout from 2008, when Obama's victory helped propel Democrats to big gains in their House majority, following the 2006 wave that swept them to power there.
Democrats will lose the House after only four years, the shortest a party has held the lower chamber since Republicans kept it for just two years from 1953-1955.
The House has the power to raise revenue through taxes and control spending, to impeach officials and to elect the president in case of a deadlock. It can also hold hearings and investigations _ a cudgel that could be used to stymie the Obama administration.
Republican Leader John Boehner was in line to claim the leadership position known as speaker and become second in line for the presidency after the vice president.
"Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington, a repudiation of big government, and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people," Boehner said.
On Wednesday morning, Boehner claimed a voter mandate to roll back the Obama administration's health care overhaul, calling it a "monstrosity." However, with Democrats still in control of the Senate, it would be very difficult for House Republicans to repeal the measure.
Obama called Boehner to say he looked forward to working with him and the Republicans "to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people," the White House said.
Boehner told the president he wanted to collaborate on voters' top priorities, creating jobs and cutting spending. "That's what they expect," the 10-term Republican said.
House Democrats defended their legislative record and campaign strategy and said they would try to compromise with the Republicans.
"The outcome of the election does not diminish the work we have done for the American people," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to wield the speaker's gavel. "We must all strive to find common ground to support the middle class, create jobs, reduce the deficit and move our nation forward."
The Republicans defeated three dozen Democrats in districts won by Republican Sen. John McCain in the 2008 presidential campaign. Democrats went deep into Republican territory to win scores of seats that year, only to see Republicans win many back this election.