CBS News Projects Paul, Coats Win Senate Seats

Kentucky Republican Senate candidate Rand Paul and his wife Kelley, face a group of reporters and photographers as the leave their polling place in Bowling Green, Ky., Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke) AP Photo

Updated at 7:35 p.m. ET

CBS projects that Republican Rand Paul is the winner in the Kentucky Senate race, pulling off an early victory for Republicans and the Tea Party. Republican Dan Coats is the projected winner in the Indiana Senate race.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. ET with Paul leading Democrat Jack Conway 55 percent to 45 percent. In Indiana as polls closed, Coats led Democrat Brad Ellsworth 55 percent to 40 percent. Preliminary exit polling shows as many as 53 percent of voters in Indiana cast their vote to express opposition to President Obama.

CBS News estimates that in Ohio, where polls closed at 7:30, Republican Rob Portman is leading Democrat Lee Fisher in the Senate race. It is too early to say anything about the Senate races in North Carolina or West Virginia, where polls have also closed. Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is the estimated winner in Vermont, and Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is the projected winner in South Carolina.

As polls continue to close across the country, Republicans are poised to win back dozens of congressional seats and possibly regain control of the House. The new balance of power will present a challenge for the president as he attempts to continue with his agenda through the second half of his term, and it will give voters renewed expectations for progress in Washington.

Republicans need to gain 39 seats in the House to win control and 10 in the Senate. Voters may be willing to put the GOP back in power after growing impatient with the poor economy and high unemployment rates that have lingered under Democratic control.

CBS News' preliminary exit polling today showed that voters are disillusioned with Mr. Obama and even more so with Congress.

President Obama and the Democrats have managed to pass several pieces of legislation in the past two years -- including major packages like health care reform -- but nevertheless face poor approval ratings from voters. For instance, nearly half of voters surveyed nationally in today's preliminary exit polling -- 48 percent -- said health care reform should be repealed.

Democrats have also struggled to mobilize their core supporters this year the way Republicans have. Today's preliminary exit polling shows that African-American voters -- who overwhelmingly support President Obama -- represent 10 percent of voters this year, compared with 13 percent in 2008. Hispanics represent 8 percent of voters this year, and 66 percent are voting Democratic. Additionally, just 9 percent of voters are in between the ages of 18 and 29, compared with 18 percent of voters in 2008. Among those young voters, 58 percent are voting Democratic.

Independents make up 28 percent of voters this year, according to the preliminary exit polling, and 56 percent of them are voting Republican. Just 39 percent are voting Democratic. Fifty-five percent of men surveyed are voting Republican, while 43 percent are voting Democratic. Among women, 49 percent are voting Democratic, and 48 percent are voting Republican.

Indiana's independent vote was particularly important for Mr. Obama in 2008, when voters helped him become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state in 45 years. In 2008, 54 percent of independents voted for Mr. Obama, while 43 percent voted for McCain. This year, however, preliminary exit polling shows 60 percent of independents supporting Coats, the Republican, and just 32 percent voting for Ellsworth.

Anxious for results out of Washington, about three in four voters said in a recent CBS News poll they want Republicans and Mr. Obama to compromise with each other. Voters also want a fresh start: As many as 80 percent of likely voters in a recent CBS News poll said that most members of Congress should be replaced with someone new.

A new Congress, however, may just mean stronger ideological divisions. A number of conservative candidates like Paul surged to success by refusing to compromise their political principles and winning the support of groups like the Tea Party. In Kentucky, preliminary exit polling shows that 43 percent of voters were Tea Party supporters, including 24 percent who were strong supporters.
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