Angry US voters 'target Democrats'
Angry American voters have been visiting polling stations across the US seemingly determined to strip Democrats of their lock on power in Congress.
Voters went to the polls with Republicans poised to trounce Democrats and reshape the political landscape nationwide.
Barring an unexpected surge in turnout among Democrats, a Republican landslide, fuelled by the ultra-conservative tea party movement, was likely to handicap President Barack Obama's ambitious agenda for changing the country.
Just two years ago, Mr Obama swept into the White House with Democrats holding majorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Voters had turned to Mr Obama and his Democrats to signal their weariness with the eight-year presidency of Republican George Bush, who began the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and oversaw the near collapse of the financial system.
But Mr Obama and his party quickly fell from favour under the burden of the so-called Great Recession and its aftermath, near-10% unemployment, anaemic economic growth and a continuing epidemic of home mortgage foreclosures that are wiping out Americans' life savings.
Republicans have ridden the crest of a wave of American fear and dissatisfaction to this Election Day. They have been bolstered by the tea party movement, a loose-knit group of organisations opposed to federal government influence on citizens' lives that sprang to life after Mr Obama took the White House.
Pre-vote polling unanimously showed the business-friendly Republicans poised to grab the majority in the House, with a lesser chance of taking charge in the Senate. Their message was simple: smaller government and low taxes.
Republicans need 40 more seats to win the House, a goal that polls indicate they have a strong chance of exceeding. Races for more than 100 of the 435 seats are competitive, mostly in Democratic-held districts.
Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats out of 37 on the ballot to win a majority in the 100-seat Senate, a tougher road that requires them to win all the tight races.
Republicans buoyantly forecast a new era of divided government. "We're hoping now for a fresh start with the American people," said Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele.