WASHINGTON -- Republicans kept a lock on the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday's voting, a crucial victory after the party failed to wrest away the presidency from Barack Obama or the Senate from the Democrats.
But it was unclear early Wednesday whether the Republicans will lose or gain seats. The GOP led with 231 seats to the Democrats' 191 seats while votes were being tallied early Wednesday, according to CNN projections. The Republicans controlled the House by 242-193 going into the election, and all 435 seats were up for grabs.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio described the result as an opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together, but also as an affirmation of the anti-tax tea party, the upstart movement that helped the Republicans capture the House in 2010.
"If there is a mandate, it is a mandate for both parties to find common ground and take steps together to help our economy grow and create jobs, which is critical to solving our debt," Boehner said after Obama's re-election. "With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates."
Two years ago, the tea party movement helped Republicans seize control of the House. This election, House Republican candidates were still stressing the core issues that the movement pushed in 2010 -- less government and a focus on cutting federal spending and the deficit -- but GOP candidates were "not wearing the tea party label on their sleeves," one senior GOP strategist working on House races said recently..
Democrats, bolstered by polling that shows that many voters blame the tea party for gridlock in Washington, had tried to pin the label on virtually every Republican incumbent and challenger.
Some of the tea party-backed GOP freshmen who had helped their party secure control two years ago were given the heave-ho Tuesday by voters. They include Reps. Joe Walsh and Bobby Schilling of Illinois, Ann Marie Buerkle and Nan Hayworth of New York and Francisco Canseco of Texas.
House Republicans lost in states that Obama won handily, including four GOP seats in Illinois. At least five Democratic incumbents also lost -- Rep. Ben Chandler of Kentucky, Rep. Larry Kissell of North Carolina, Rep. Leonard Boswell of Iowa, Rep. Kathy Hochul of New York and Rep. Mark Critz of Pennsylvania.
Democratic winners included Rep. John Barrow of Georgia, a moderate Democrat; Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., who has been receiving treatment for a mood disorder; and Joseph Kennedy III of Massachusetts.
Along with Boehner, prominent Republicans retained their seats, CNN projected.
Rep. Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential candidate, was re-elected to his House seat from Wisconsin. Rep. Eric Cantor retained his seat in Virginia. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota -- who unsuccessfully ran for president in the 2012 election cycle -- was re-elected in a hard-fought race.
Democrats would have needed to pick up 25 Republican seats to regain control.
Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats noted that 58 Republicans represent districts won by Obama in 2008 and pointed to those wins as a template for a successful election night, but shortly after 9 p.m. Tuesday, CNN projected that they would not achieve their goal.
With the bulk of this cycle's competitive races concentrated in districts represented by more moderate members of each party, the outcome of this election could mean an even more polarized House in 2013.
A recent study by the Cook Political Report found that the number of swing districts in the nation dropped from 164 to 99 over the last 14 years. That decline has widened the ideological divide between the two parties.
"There's a remarkable reduction in the number of members who have an incentive to compromise," said David Wasserman, who analyzes House races for Cook.
The House will return next week for a lame-duck session until new members take office in January, facing major unfinished business, including how to avoid the fiscal cliff -- the end-of-the-year deadline that looms before huge spending cuts kick in and tax breaks begin to expire, including the Bush-era tax cuts. The fiscal cliff includes automatic, across-the-board spending cuts set to trigger at the beginning of next year if Capitol Hill fails to work out a deficit-reduction plan.
House Republicans will hold leadership elections next Wednesday, with Boehner and other top leaders expected to stay in their posts. House Democrats have postponed their leadership elections until after Thanksgiving.
Key House race snapshots
Compiled by Adam Levy and Robert Yoon, CNN Political Research
Arizona 1: Jonathan Paton (R) vs. former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
Open Republican-held seat
This redrawn district covers
most of northern and eastern Arizona. The Democratic nominee was Ann Kirkpatrick, who was elected in 2008 and was swept out in the Republican wave two years later. The Republican nominee was Jonathan Paton, a former state senator. Kirkpatrick had a sizable fund-raising advantage over Paton, but national Republicans invested heavily to help close the gap in TV ads. This seat was a top priority for both parties. A winner has not been yet projected.
Arizona 2: Rep. Ron Barber (D) vs. Martha McSally (R)
Democrat Gabrielle Giffords would have run here had she sought a fourth term. Giffords is recovering after being shot in January 2011 in Arizona. Her district director, Ron Barber, who was also wounded, won a special election to fill her seat when she resigned last January. His opponent was Republican Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot. Barber had a financial advantage at the start of October, though McSally remained competitive on the airwaves. Still, Barber was expected to win. A winner has not been yet projected.
Arizona 9: Kyrsten Sinema (D) vs. Vernon Parker (R)
The battle for this new district pitted Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, a former state senator, against Republican Vernon Parker, the former mayor of Paradise Valley. Both parties invested heavily in the race, though a Democratic super PAC tipped the TV ad war balance of power slightly in the Democrat's favor. A winner has not been yet projected.
California 30: Rep. Brad Sherman (D) vs. Rep. Howard Berman (D)
One of the nastiest House races of 2012 was between two incumbent Democrats due to redistricting and the state's new primary system, in which the top two finishers advanced to the general election. Rep. Brad Sherman had at least one advantage over Rep. Howard Berman: He represented more of the redrawn Sherman Oaks-area district. Sherman won the primary with 42.4% of the vote compared with 32.4% for Berman. The remaining votes were split among five candidates. The race hit a nasty patch last month, when the two men shouted at each other at a public forum. Sherman is the projected winner.
California 31: Rep. Gary Miller (R) vs. Bob Dutton (R)
Seven-term incumbent Rep. Gary Miller faced a tough challenge from a fellow Republican in a race also determined by California's new primary system. Miller's opponent was Bob Dutton, a state senator and businessman. Miller represented none of this redrawn district, while Dutton represented much of it in the state legislature. Miller is the projected winner.
California 36: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R) vs. Raul Ruiz (D)
Rep. Mary Bono Mack, seeking an eighth full term in the House, was a frequent target of Democrats hoping to pick off a Republican in a Democratic district. This year, she found herself fending off a strong challenge from Democrat Raul Ruiz, a Mexican-American, Harvard-educated physician. But Bono Mack has survived strong challenges before and has a moderate voting record. She also prevailed over Ruiz in her first one-on-one matchup, the June "top-two" primary in which they appeared together on the same ballot. A winner has not been yet projected.
California 44: Rep. Laura Richardson (D) vs. Rep. Janice Hahn (D)
Redistricting forced another pair of Democratic incumbents to face off this November. Rep. Janice Hahn won a July 2011 special election to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Jane Harman. Rep. Laura Richardson was elected in a 2007 special election to replace the late Juanita Millender-McDonald. Hahn appeared to have an advantage due, in part, to an ongoing ethics saga for Richardson that resulted in a reprimand and $10,000 fine by the House Ethics Committee for campaign finance violations involving her congressional staff. Hahn also enjoyed a huge fund-raising and cash-on-hand advantage at the start of October. Hahn trounced Richardson in the primary. Hahn is the projected winner.
Florida 9: Former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) vs. Todd Long (R)
In just one term in Congress, Democrat Alan Grayson mastered the art of making headlines with his blunt and abrasive rhetorical style. During the debate over health care, he said the Republican health care plan was, "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly." He also said on CNN that Republicans were "foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals." In a 2010 TV ad, he called his Republican opponent, Daniel Webster, "Taliban Dan." Although he quickly became a hero among liberals, Grayson went on to lose his bid for a second term by a staggering 18 points.
But Grayson won Tuesday in a new district in the Orlando suburbs against Todd Long, an attorney, small-businessman and conservative radio show host.
Florida 18: Rep. Allen West (R) vs. Patrick Murphy (D)
Rep. Allen West was a top target for Democrats The freshman Republican's sharp rhetoric during his first term did not endear him to colleagues across the aisle. For instance, West last summer e-mailed
Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz that she was "the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives." West's Democratic opponent was Patrick Murphy, a businessman and executive with a construction firm. A winner has not been yet projected.
Florida 26: Rep. David Rivera (R) vs. Joe Garcia (D)
The race in Florida's southernmost congressional district was a rematch of 2010, but the dynamics could not have been more different. Republican incumbent David Rivera was elected in the Republican wave two years ago. Democrat Joe Garcia, a former Miami-Dade County Democratic Party chairman, lost by 9 points. The key difference this time was that Rivera was dogged by scandal and ethics issues -- and this time, he lost. Garcia is the projected winner.
Georgia 12: Rep. John Barrow (D) vs. Lee Anderson (R)
Moderate Georgia Democratic Rep. John Barrow was re-elected to a fifth term in the House on Tuesday, CNN projects, and is the last white male Democrat from the Deep South in the House of Representatives. The remaining Democratic congressmen from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina and Georgia are all African-Americans.
The member of the "Blue Dog" Democrats, the group of fiscal conservatives in the House, has faced strong Republican challenges every cycle, and this year Republican Lee Anderson got 46% to Barrow's 54%. Both parties put considerable resources into the race in the heavily Republican district.
Though Barrow survived this year, the ranks of moderate Democrats have dwindled in the House, and fellow blue dog Larry Kissell lost his race in North Carolina.
Illinois 2: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D) vs. Brian Woodworth (R)
Despite a lengthy absence from Capitol Hill due to illness, Democratic Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will easily hold on to his Illinois seat, CNN projects.
Jackson was projected to defeated GOP contender Brian Woodworth, an attorney and university professor. Woodworth had criticized Jackson during the campaign for leaving the district unrepresented.
The nine-term congressman has been away from Congress and largely out of the public eye since May. His office said in June that he was taking a leave of absence, and the Mayo Clinic disclosed in August that he was suffering from depression.
The FBI and federal prosecutors in Washington are investigating Jackson for possible financial improprieties, according to a law enforcement official.
The House Ethics Committee is looking into allegations that, in 2008, Jackson or one of his associates offered to raise money for then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in exchange for Jackson being appointed to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama.
Illinois 8: Rep. Joe Walsh (R) vs. Tammy Duckworth (D)
Freshman Republican Joe Walsh's loss Tuesday was no surprise, since he had been high on the list of endangered GOP incumbents. Walsh barely won his seat in 2010 and redistricting had made the district more Democratic. He had the additional misfortune of running in a presidential election year when favorite son Barack Obama was heading the ticket for the other party. Walsh made headlines with a number of controversial statements, including his assertion that medical science has advanced to the point where abortions are never necessary to save a woman's life. Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a decorated Iraq war veteran, led in fund-raising.
Illinois 10: Rep. Robert Dold (R) vs. Brad Schneider (D)
Republican Robert Dold had won this Democratic-friendly district in the Republican wave of 2010, replacing fellow Republican Mark Kirk, who ran for the U.S. Senate. But the redrawn district was even more Democratic-friendly and Dold lost Tuesday to businessman Brad Schneider.
Iowa 3: Rep. Tom Latham (R) vs. Rep. Leonard Boswell (D)
Iowa was one of 10 states to lose seats in Congress because of redistricting, setting up a member-on-member showdown between two veteran lawmakers in a merged Des Moines-area district. Democrat Leonard Boswell represented much of this new district in the late 1990s. But Republican Tom Latham won with a fund-raising advantage due in part to his friendship with Boehner.
Iowa 4: Rep. Steve King (R) vs. Christie Vilsack (D)
Republican incumbent Steve King's bid for a sixth term in Congress succeeded, in a new district against a tough new challenger, Democrat Christie Vilsack, Iowa's former first lady and the wife of U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. King had a fund-raising advantage over Vilsack, and most of the counties in the enormous new district had gone for John McCain in 2008.
Louisiana 3: Rep. Charles Boustany (R) vs. Rep. Jeff Landry (R)
As in California, redistricting and a "top-two" primary system forced two incumbent lawmakers of the same party into a November showdown. Republican Charles Boustany, a surgeon elected in 2004, faced freshman Republican Jeff Landry, an attorney and businessman, former police officer
and tea party favorite. Boustany represented more of the new district than did Landry, but the freshman proved he was capable of pulling off surprises when he defeated the better-known former Louisiana House speaker in the 2010 primary. Under state law, the November election serves as an open primary, in which the top two finishers will advance to a December runoff if no one gets a majority. A winner has not been yet projected.
Maryland 6: Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R) vs. John Delaney (D)
Republican Roscoe Bartlett's unsuccessful bid for an 11th term appears to have been his last. CNN projects that he lost to Democrat John Delaney, a wealthy businessman. The long-time western Maryland representative was a target for Democrats who redrew the district last year. As a result, his once-safe seat now stretches from the state's westernmost point to include a piece of heavily Democratic Montgomery County and reaches almost to the District of Columbia border.
Massachusetts 4: Joe Kennedy III (D) vs. Sean Bielat (R)
Open Democratic-held seat
After a two-year absence, the famed Kennedy family once again has an elected representative in national politics.
Joe Kennedy III will serve Massachusetts' 4th District, having handily defeated GOP opponent Sean Bielat, according to a CNN projection. The seat became open when longtime Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, who has been a leading proponent of financial regulations, announced this year that he was retiring.
Kennedy is the 32-year-old grandson of slain Sen. Robert Kennedy of New York. His great-uncles are the late President John F. Kennedy and long-time Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who died in office in 2009.
Joe Kennedy's second cousin, Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, left office in January 2011, ending his family's 64-year streak of service in the U.S. Congress.
Joe Kennedy is a former prosecutor and Peace Corps member; Bielat is a businessman and Marine Corps reservist.
Massachusetts 6: Rep. John Tierney (D) vs. Richard Tisei (R)
Rep. John Tierney, an eight-term incumbent, won re-election, CNN projected, despite being dogged by a financial scandal involving his wife and her brothers and an illegal gambling operation.
Minnesota 6: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) vs. Jim Graves (D)
Tea party favorite Michele Bachmann won re-election, CNN projected. She was considered a shoo-in for re-election when she folded up her presidential campaign in January. Ten months later, Bachmann still had the advantage but she faced a tough challenger in Jim Graves, a wealthy businessman. Graves waged a competitive race in October, spending $1.2 million in TV ads, compared with $1.7 million for Bachmann. The conservative congresswoman had never posted huge numbers on Election Night, but redistricting made her district slightly more Republican.
Nevada 4: Steven Horsford (D) vs. Danny Tarkanian (R)
Democrat Steven Horsford, the state senate majority leader, bested Republican Danny Tarkanian, a businessman and son of UNLV basketball coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian.
New Hampshire 1: Rep. Frank Guinta (R) vs. former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D)
Republican Frank Guinta lost to Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in the battle for New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. Shea-Porter was elected in the Democratic wave of 2006 and served two terms before losing to Guinta in 2010.
New Hampshire 2: Rep. Charlie Bass (R) vs. Ann McLane Kuster (D)
Republican incumbent Charlie Bass lost to Ann McLane Kuster. Kuster had lost to Bass in the general election in 2010 but ran again and outraised Bass. The Democrat far outspent her opponent on the airwaves even though the national Republican Party invested funds on behalf of Bass.
New York 24: Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R) vs. former Rep. Dan Maffei (D)
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle was elected in the Republican wave of 2010 and lost on Tuesday to the man she defeated two years ago. Democrat Dan Maffei, a longtime Capitol Hill staffer, won this upstate New York district in 2008 after it had been in Republican hands for almost 30 years. He lost the seat to nurse and tea party favorite Buerkle in one of the closest House races in 2010. The two had been evenly matched in fund-raising and TV ad spending. The district leans slight more Democratic.
North Carolina 7: Rep. Mike McIntyre (D) vs. David Rouzer (R)
Democrat Mike McIntyre ran a competitive race despite a newly redrawn district that skews heavily Republican. The Republican nominee was David Rouzer, a state senator. McIntyre, an eight-term incumbent, led in fund-raising and kept even with ad spending by pro-Republican outside groups and the national Republican Party. Rouzer stayed off the airwaves. Like fellow southern Democrat John Barrow in Georgia, McIntyre showed strong signs of life in a district that appeared to have been drawn to end his career. A winner has not been yet projected.
Ohio 9: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D) vs. Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher (R)
Wurzelbacher, better known as "Joe the Plumber," became a conservative icon in the 2008 presidential race when he challenged then-candidate Obama on tax policy at a campaign event. Republican John McCain even mentioned him during the third presidential debate. But four years later, Wurzelbacher's run for Congress was foiled by 15-term incumbent Democrat Marcy Kaptur.
Ohio 16: Rep. Jim Renacci (R) vs. Rep. Betty Sutton (D)
In Ohio's most competitive House race, freshman Republican incumbent Jim Renacci beat three-term Democratic incumbent Betty Sutton. The merged district -- located in northeastern Ohio near, but not including, Cleveland, Akron, and Canton -- leaned Republican.
Tennessee 4: Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R) vs. Eric Stewart (D)
Republican physician Scott DesJarlais, who was elected to Congress in the Republican wave of 2010, won a second term despite the recent revelation that he had pressured a girlfriend to have an abortion a decade ago. DesJarlais was separated from his wife at the time.
Texas 23: Rep. Francisco Canseco (R) vs. Pete Gallego (D)
Republican Francisco "Quico" Canseco was one of several freshman members elected in the GOP wave of 2010 who lost in his bid for a second term. Canseco was a wealthy commercial real estate developer when he won his third bid for this seat two years ago, defeating Democratic incumbent Ciro Rodriguez. After a legal battle over the redistricting process, Canseco ended up with a district slightly more Democratic -- President Obama carried it in 2008 with 51%, according to the Cook Political Report. The winner was Democrat Pete Gallego, a state representative.
Utah 4: Rep. Jim Matheson (D) vs. Mia Love (R)
As Utah's only Democratic member of Congress, Jim Matheson beat his Republican opponent, Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, who would have become the first female African-American Republican to serve in Congress.
Wisconsin 1: Rep. Paul Ryan (R) vs. Rob Zerban (D)
Being named Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate did not affect Paul Ryan's chances at getting re-elected to the House. He won handily against Kenosha County Supervisor Rob Zerban.
Wisconsin 7: Rep. Sean Duffy (R) vs. Pat Kreitlow (D)
Rep. Sean Duffy was a former Ashland County district attorney and tea party favorite, but he was probably best known for his work as a professional lumberjack athlete and ESPN commentator and as a cast member on MTV's reality show "The Real World." He defeated a tough challenge from Pat Kreitlow, a former state senator and former local TV news anchor. Redistricting had given Duffy a more GOP-leaning district. He also enjoyed a financial advantage.
CNN's Laurie Ure contributed to this report