BREAKING: GOP Seizes Senate (Video)
Washington (CNN) -- A Republican tide ripped the Senate away from Democrats Tuesday, according to CNN projections, giving the GOP full control of Congress and the power to pin down President Barack Obama during his last two years in office.
The thumping win upends the balance of power between the White House and Capitol Hill only six years after Obama's Democrats swept to power and marginalized Republicans in a rush to reform health care, Wall Street and pass a huge stimulus package.
Now, it's Democrats who will take the back seat on Capitol Hill, relying mostly on the power of the filibuster to stymie Republicans and keep Obama's legacy intact.
Democratic fears of a rough night came true, as party candidates struggled to defend seats won in the 2008 Obama wave in conservative territory, and couldn't get out from under an unpopular president limping through his second term.
Republicans sent an early signal of intent when Mitch McConnell, who is now expected to fulfill his ambition to become Senate majority leader next year, quickly dispatched his opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky.
The GOP then piled up wins in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia and North Carolina — all seats that had been in Democratic hands — to hit their magic number of six net gains.
They also managed to hold on to seats in Kansas and Georgia which had threatened to fall from their grasp and complicate the Senate math.
Republicans, who also widened their majority in the House of Representatives, will now look with some optimism on the 2016 presidential election.
But Democrats will console themselves with a more favorable Senate map in two years time and the belief that shifting demographics and an unresolved war between the Republican grassroots and the party establishment will make the next presidential race a tough climb for the GOP.
Adding to the bad for Democrats, Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is having a tougher ride than expected against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in a state Democrats had thought was reliably theirs after Obama won it twice.
The Democratic loss in Colorado, where Sen. Mark Udall went down to Republican Cory Gardner, was particularly significant.
The party had believed that Colorado's legions of young people, women and Hispanic voters had turned the state solidly blue. Udall's loss also challenges Obama's suggestion earlier Tuesday that Democrats only lost because they faced an almost impossible map of Senate reelection races in solid Republican territory.
Florida governor's race
In Florida, top officials with both campaigns tell CNN's Mark Preston that Charlie Crist has called Florida Gov. Rick Scott to concede. Earlier in the night, a judge denied a request from Crist to extend voting in Broward County by two hours because of several breakdowns in voting systems.
The first wave of exit polls analyzed by CNN Tuesday evening show dissatisfaction with the President's administration. Roughly six in ten voters are either angry or dissatisfied with Obama, though about the same proportion feel the same way about Republican leaders in Congress. And most voters have an unfavorable view of both parties.
The data also reveals a fearful electorate. Seven in ten voters are somewhat or very worried about a terrorist attack on US soil while 50 percent disapprove of the federal government's response to the Ebola crisis.
Problems at the polls
There were some hiccups across the country as Americans went to the polls.
Some people in Alaska were voting by flashlight after a power outage and those in Maine had to cope with a winter storm that prompted a state of emergency. In Georgia, home to a competitive Senate and governor's race, a state website listing polling locations went down though the secretary of state said there weren't any voter irregularities there.
The fate of the Senate might not be clear until early into Wednesday morning. In Alaska, for example, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is in a tight race, polls will not close until 1 a.m. on the East Coast.
A runoff election, meanwhile, will be needed in Louisiana, according to a CNN projection, after neither Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu or GOP challenger Bill Cassidy reached the 50% threshold to win outright.
The race in Iowa between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley will be tight. Still, recent polls suggested Ernst has a slight lead. Ernst was in her hotel room Tuesday evening working on a victory speech, according to a senior aide.
Several key governor's races are also being decided on Tuesday.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf unseated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a marquee race. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback is in danger of losing amid a backlash against his hard core conservatism. And liberal Massachusetts could elect a Republican governor while the governor's race in Maryland is surprisingly close considering the state is reliably Democratic.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich easily won reelection in a perennial presidential swing state, a result that could build buzz for a possible White House run.