"We're going to confirm some judges that have been delayed, abused, and really treated very unfairly," vowed Senate Republican leader Trent Lott on the CBS News Early Show Wednesday. "We do need to go ahead and get this Homeland Security Department done. We need to take a good look at the economy and see where there's some places where we can help the economy. That would include possibly an economic package that could include tax cuts."
It wasn't until Wednesday morning that former Vice President Walter Mondale conceded defeat to Republican Norm Coleman. Their race had to be printed on separate paper ballots that were counted by hand, after Mondale entered the race just 10 days ago to replace the late Sen. Paul Wellstone.
In South Dakota, CBS has not projected a winner, but the last count showed Democrat Tim Johnson with a hairline lead over Republican Rep. John Thune. However, a recount is expected.
In Missouri, Democratic incumbent Jean Carnahan conceded defeat to her opponent, Republican Jim Talent. The GOP victory put the Republicans over the top, guaranteeing them a majority in the Senate.
"President Bush and the Republican Party tonight have made history," said White House spokesman Ari Fleischer.
"A lot of the credit goes to the president," said Lott. "He showed commitment and leadership. He didn't just hole up in the White House and talk about the critical issues, which he could have done. He got out there and put his prestige on the line. He led and he made a difference."
"It was a reflection of a very popular president who broke all records in terms of his willingness to go around the country and campaign for his candidates," agreed Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, also on The Early Show. "We weren't able to break through on economic issues, on the issues that we care a lot about and I think that might be the difference."
Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat who led her party's Senate election drive, said Democrats failed to hone a sharp message on issues like education and jobs.
"The country is still divided, but there were a lot of people on the left who didn't hear what they needed to hear in this election and might have stayed home," she said in an interview.
The GOP triumph meant the Democrats will have to relinquish the majority they have held since Vermont Sen. James Jeffords abandoned the Republicans in June 2001.
With at least 47 senators, Democrats will still be able to use filibusters to kill Republican initiatives because such roadblocks need only 41 votes to succeed.
Even so, the Republicans' capture of the Senate denies Democrats of their major remaining source of power. Republicans already control the White House and they recaptured their House majority Wednesday.
In an upset, the GOP took the closely watched Georgia Senate race. Saxby Chambliss beat Democratic incumbent Max Cleland.
Elizabeth Dole was the winner of the North Carolina seat, while John Sununu won the New Hampshire race. Dole held off a challenge by Democrat Erskine Bowles. Sununu beat Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. In Colorado, GOP incumbent Wayne Allard beat Democrat Tom Strickland. In Texas, The GOP's John Cornyn beat Ron Kirk, who was trying to become Texas' first black Senator.
Although Louisiana Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu had a comfortable lead there, it was not enough — more than 50 percent — to prevent a Dec. 7 run-off with the top GOP vote-getter, Suzanne Haik Terrell, who beat out two other GOP candidates for second place.
And with with control of the Senate already decided, the impact of that race is greatly lessened and both Democratic and Republican heavy-hitters may not campaign on the candidates' behalf.
Missouri Sen. Carnahan was seen as the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. In the past few weeks, the GOP spent millions in Missouri trying to elect her opponent, Talent, a three-term Congressman. Carnahan, 68, took the seat two years ago after her husband, former Missouri governor Mel Carnahan, died in a plane crash. Talent portrayed his opponent as a political novice who has not served the state well.
Democrats had a few victories. Arkansas attorney general Mark Pryor succeeded in ousting scandal-tainted incumbent Tim Hutchins, a freshman senator who divorced his wife of 29 years to marry a former aide.
In New Jersey, Democrat Frank Lautenberg defeated the GOP's Doug Forrester.
Most Senate races went as expected. Virginia's John Warner, a power on the Senate Armed Services Committee, won his fifth six-year term in a race in which his popularity was underlined by the failure of Democrats to even field a candidate. Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, expected to be the No. 2 Senate GOP leader, won his fourth term.
Easily re-elected were Democratic Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia; Richard Durbin of Illinois; Jack Reed of Rhode Island; Joseph Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; and potential 2004 presidential contender John Kerry of Massachusetts.
Victorious Republican senators included Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Michael Enzi of Wyoming.
"The Republicans are going to have the opportunity now to move their agenda, and we'll see what happens," said Daschle. "We're not going away. We're going to keep fighting. We're going to stand up for the things we believe in. It's going to be important for us to continue that fight, even though we're in the minority."