Republicans in a Rout

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Republicans in a Rout

WASHINGTON -- Republicans took control of the Senate and held onto the House the Associated Press is reporting, handing President George W. Bush historic bragging rights and two years to push through an agenda starting with deeper tax cuts. Sweetening the prize, Republicans claimed a majority of the governors' races and left Democrats grumbling about a popular wartime president.

Bush made celebratory calls into the early morning hours Wednesday and already was talking of his own 2004 re-election campaign. White House advisers boasted about a new mandate, and said the president would be beckoning Democrats to fall in line.

Republican leaders credited Bush's aggressive campaigning and a fired-up GOP base of supporters for pushing the party to heights few had thought possible in a midterm election, when the president's party historically loses seats.

"I had a sense or a feel that maybe this would happen but I must say it did exceed our hopes and expectations," said Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott, expected to return as majority leader with the GOP taking clear control of Congress. Of Bush's role, he said on NBC's "Today" show: "I think it was a referendum on his leadership and he really showed that he was committed ? that he was willing to put his prestige on the line."

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), glumly acknowledged, "This was one tough night," and said the war on terrorism and the prospect of war with Iraq drowned out what the Democrats were trying to say about the shaky economy.

With four races undecided, the Republicans won 227 House seats, the Democrats, 203, and there was one independent. When the new Congress is sworn in January, it will be the first time in 50 years that Republicans take outright control of the White House, Senate and House, the report said.