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Democrats make small dent in GOP's edge in House

Politico Playbook: NBC News' Andrea Mitchell, former DLC Chair Harold Ford Jr., CNBC's Jim Cramer and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele discuss the future of bipartisanship following the president's win. Politico's Mike Allen also delivers the post-Election Day Playbook.

New this update: Latest NBC News House projections on House; Mary Bono Mack and Fortney "Pete" Stark defeated in California; Allen West refuses to concede in Florida.


Updated at 1:08 p.m. ET, Nov. 7: Democrats continued to chip away at the Republican advantage in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, but the GOP was certain to retain a solid grip on the lower house of Congress.

At 1 p.m. ET, NBC News projected a 231-191 Republican advantage in the House, with 13 races still undecided. The projection indicated that the final balance was expected to be 237 seats for the Republicans vs. 198 for the Democrats.

If the projection hold, it would meant that Republicans would have a slightly diminished majority from the 240-190 edge that Republican enjoyed entering the election (five House seats were vacant -- two formerly GOP-held and three Democratic seats).

The House’s Republican leaders saw the results as support from the electorate for their strong stance against increasing taxes, even for the wealthiest Americans.

Speaking at the RNC election night headquarters, House Speaker John Boehner says the renewing of House Republican majority shows "that there is no mandate for raising tax rates."

“The American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority,” House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who ran unopposed in his re-election bid, declared Tuesday night. "With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there’s no mandate for raising tax rates. What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burdens on small businesses, bring jobs home and let our economy grow."

“Just as in 2010, our House Republican candidates listened to the American people and rejected the Democrats' tax-and-spend agenda that threatens the American Dream,” added Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

View House election results

In Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s running mate, won re-election to his seat. In a statement Wednesday, he said he would return to Congress after spending some time with his family.

"I am immensely proud of the campaign we ran, and I remain grateful to Gov. Romney for the honor of being his running mate," he said. "I look forward to spending some time with my family in the coming days and then continuing my responsibilities as chairman of the House Budget Committee and representative of Wisconsin's First Congressional District."

Also re-elected was Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in California.

President Barack Obama won re-election and Democrats were projected to retain control of the Senate, meaning that the president would have to confront a still-divided Congress in his second term. 

Among the House races that were being closely watched either because they were in bellwether districts or because the candidates had instant name recognition:

6th District:  Former GOP presidential candidate Rep. Michelle Bachmann eked out a narrow victory over Democratic hotel businessman Jim Graves. Bachmann heavily outspent her opponent, and in her fundraising emails she has called the campaign the toughest of her life. The results backed that up. Final totals show she beat Graves by fewer than 4,000 votes out of more than 356,000 cast. See results 

Tea party favorite Michelle Bachmann wins tight race in Minnesota

18th District: Freshman Republican Rep. Allen West, a former Army lieutenant colonel and prominent face of the tea party, apparently lost an extremely tight race to Democrat Patrick Murphy, a 29-year-old construction executive and political neophyte. West, who garnered headlines for insisting Obama is a Muslim and charging that scores of congressional Democrats are communists, finished about 2,500 votes behind Murphy with 100 percent of the precincts reporting. But his campaign manager, Tim Edson, said Wednesday the candidate was not conceding:

"This race is far from decided and there is no rush to declare an outcome," Politico quoted Edson as saying. "Ensuring a fair and accurate counting of all ballots is of the utmost importance.  There are still tens of thousands of absentee ballots to be counted in Palm Beach County and potential provisional ballots across the district."

The contest was believed to be one of the most expensive House races in history: The two sides had raised nearly $21 million as of Oct. 17, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, and super PACs supporting the candidates poured in millions more. See results

Democrats projected to maintain control of Senate

12th District: In a high-spending race that helped solidify the GOP’s control in the House, Republican Keith Rothfus, an attorney and a political newcomer, upset incumbent Democratic Rep. Mark Critz, by a 52-48 margin. Critz called Rothfus and conceded shortly before 11:30 p.m. Critz won this western Pennsylvania seat in a May 2010 special election after the death of longtime Democratic Congressman John Murtha, for whom Critz worked. The campaign has been flooded with $9.9 million in spending by outside groups, more than any other House race in the nation, according to The Associated Press. See results

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4th District: Five-term incumbent and outspoken conservative Republican stalwart Rep. Steve King defeated Democrat Christie Vilsack, wife of former Iowa governor and current U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. King had never faced a serious challenge in the heavily Republican area, but the post-Census addition of Ames made the district less conservative. With 98 percent of the votes counted, King held a 53-45 advantage. See results

15th District:
The dean of California's congressional delegation, Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark, 80, was defeated by Republican Eric Swalwell, 31, a Dublin councilman and Alameda County prosecutor, 53 percent to 47 percent, in the redistricted 15th District. Stark was first elected to the House in 1973. See results

36th District: GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack was an apparent loser to emergency room physician Raul Ruiz in the newly redistricted 36th,  with 49 percent of the vote to Ruiz's 51 percent. Bono Mack has held the seat since 1998, when she won a special election to replace her late husband, Sonny Bono, half of the singing duo Sonny and Cher. Sonny Bono was killed in a skiing accident earlier that year in South Lake Tahoe. After redistricting, registered Democrats outnumbered Republican voters in the 36th, forcing Bono Mack to compete in a "blue" district for the first time. Bono Mack’s husband, Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., also lost his Senate race in Florida to favored Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. See results 

Joy and sorrow: Web reacts to President Obama's re-election

Also in the running
In one of the day’s more unusual House races, Republican Kerry Bentivolio, a reindeer farmer and Santa Claus impersonator, handily beat Democrat Syed Taj, a physician, in Michigan’s 11th District, according to NBC News projections. The race became wide open after Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, a five-term Republican, resigned in July after failing to produce enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Not faring as well was VoteForEddie.com, a 32-year-old college Florida student who legally changed his name. VoteForEddie.com, running as an Independent, finished a distant third in Florida’s 25th District, garnering about 8 percent of the vote.

Behind the numbers
Republicans, running on a promise to shrink government and roll back unpopular federal policies and proposals, took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, picking up a whopping 63 seats in the midterm elections. Republicans said the landslide victory was a referendum on Obama's and the then-incumbent party's performance.

The 2012 elections were the first using new redistricting maps drawn up after the 2010 Census. Every 10 years, states redraw their congressional-seat boundaries, and redistricting favored Republicans in many areas this time around. Some moderate Democrats decided to retire rather than seek re-election in Republican-leaning districts.

“Democrats couldn't have picked a worse year to suffer horrific losses up and down the ballot than 2010,” wrote David Wasserman in the Cook Political Report. “In effect, the GOP won the right to draw much of the political map for the next 10 years."

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