By M. Alex Johnson Reporter and NBC News
updated 11/3/2010 4:08:04 PM ET 2010-11-03T20:08:04

For Democrats, Election Day was judgment day, when the jurors stood up and convicted a rash of candidates of guilt by association with Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi.

    1. National overview
    2. Full Senate results
    3. Key House results
    4. Full Gubernatorial results
"People had to have somebody to blame," Chuck Drake, a voter in Clintonville, Ohio, said Wednesday morning in a snap assessment of midterm elections in which Republicans took back control of the U.S. House, picked up at least six seats in the Senate and assumed control of many state governments.

As the president himself was acknowledging Wednesday that his party took a "shellacking," voters said the reason was simple: It was all about "people being generally unhappy with the direction of Obama's administration," Drake said.

The guilt-by-association theme surfaced repeatedly in exit polls and interviews with voters.

Paul Gentry of Danville, Va., said he voted for Republican Robert Hurt to unseat Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello because "I thought Perriello was too close to the Obama administration, and I'm not too happy with a lot of the things they've done."

Exit polling data indicated that nearly four in 10 voters said they backed Republican House candidates as a way to thumb their nose at Obama, but David Hyde, also of Danville, identified two other villains: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Pelosi of California, the soon-to-be former speaker of the House.

Hyde said he backed Perriello because Hurt "has just went along with whatever Reid and Pelosi wanted."

For many voters, Pelosi was just as easy a target as Obama because "Congress is always less popular than any other branch of government," said Michael Wolf , a political scientist at Indiana University-Purdue University in Fort Wayne. "When you're leading that, you're going to be the one that catches the blame."

Republican leaders seized on Pelosi's identification with unpopular programs backed by Obama, making her the centerpiece of a pre-election "Fire Pelosi Tour" through 48 states led by Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

The message appeared to have resonated.

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At a victory rally Tuesday night in Columbia, Mo., Republican Rep. Blaine Leutkemeyer led supporters in a call-and-response chant:

"Nancy Pelosi ..."

"... You're fired!"

"Nancy Pelosi ..."

"... You're fired!"

"The American people stood up and said we want our country back," said Leutkemeyer, who was returned to Congress for a second term.

Like Leutkemeyer, other Republican candidates ran just as much against Pelosi as they did their own opponents.

At a rally Tuesday night celebrating his ouster of veteran Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., Republican Steven Palazzo promised supporters: "The first thing I'm going to do is fire Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House!"

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Specifically, voters said they held Obama and Pelosi responsible for the economy and for the health care overhaul.

Danny Richardson, who voted in Northern Virginia, said the Democrats had had enough time to get the economy moving.

"They've got to get the people working," Richardson said. "It's been too long, and the working people need to get back to work."

"The health thing for the elderly is a real turning point,” Tim Shulze said over breakfast at a diner in Columbus, Ohio.

"That health care bill got the elderly out — they didn't care for it — and I think that was the big thing on Obama," Shulze said.

'You don't want your child to see this'
Voters had one more message for candidates: Stop the mudslinging.

"We don't feel like there needs to be any civil discourse anymore," said Devon DeGarmo, who voted in Anchorage, Alaska, adding that the dominant strategy appeared to be "yell at each other and call names, and the guy who yells the loudest wins.”

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Ralph Mills, 74, of Morgantown, W.Va., said the 2010 campaign was the ugliest of the many he could remember, filled with "too much rhetoric, too much lying, too much bad advertising."

"I'm tired of hearing it," said Keisha Maines, who voted in Albany, N.Y. "I'm tired of listening to it on TV. I'm tired of everything."

The ads were so nasty this cycle, said Melanie Leach of Lexington, Ky., that "you want to turn it off because you don't want your child to see this."

David Kroot summed up the philosophy of just about everyone after Tuesday's voting:

"I am ecstatic it’s done," he said. "It's been exhausting seeing people argue back and forth on both sides of the parties."

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Video: After the election, voters reflect on decisions

  1. Closed captioning of: After the election, voters reflect on decisions

    >>> we are back from our "decision 2010 " headquarters at 30 rockefeller plaza in new york. last night before the polls had closed, we heard the personal stories of four voters from around this country and what was on their minds as they went to cast their ballots. well, tonight, those results are in. our own rehema ellis asked the very same voters about the message they sent.

    >> reporter: these four voters knew what they wanted when they went to the polls. the question today -- how do they feel about what they got?

    >> cautious.

    >> disappointed.

    >> i have very mixed feelings.

    >> very optimistic.

    >> reporter: in rock hill , social, sheila huckabee watched the returns from home. an independent, this mother and school administrator lives in a state where 70% of eighth graders are behind in math. she split the ticket yesterday, but it didn't go her way.

    >> i'm also a little nervous, because all of the candidates who were elected have mixed records on their views of public education . and i'm very concerned about the funding for public education in the future.

    >> reporter: brad, a businessman and father in san diego , is a long-time democrat, but voted against his party in the senate race. saying he was looking for change, especially when it comes to immigration.

    >> this is something we need to get off the table. the immigration issue is definitely been a dark cloud over our country.

    >> reporter: in chicago, 23-year-old campaigned for the republican ticket and is happy with the election. part of the wave of white male republicans who helped shift the balance of power in the house of representatives . an extension of conservatives' unhappiness with president obama . nationwide, 54% of all voters said they wanted change.

    >> i think it's very exciting for job growth and the economic outlook for the next few years.

    >> reporter: in miami, she's staying strong considering her party took a beating. now she wants both sides to get to work.

    >> don't focus on president obama and him getting out of there. that's neither here nor there. you were sent there to work for the people to help this country and that's what you need to be doing.

    >> reporter: the day after an election,

Map: Election results 2010

Photos: Election night

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  1. Ohio Gov.-elect John Kasich celebrates a victory during the Ohio Republican Party celebration in Columbus, Ohio. (Tony Dejak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, celebrates early election returns in Anchorage on Nov. 2. With Murkowski are from left, sons Matt and Nick Murkowski and longtime friend Hope Neslon. (Michael Dinneen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. California Gov.-elect Jerry Brown celebrates his election win during a rally with his wife, Anne Gust, in Oakland, Calif. (Paul Sakuma / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman concedes to Democrat Jerry Brown during a campaign party in Universal City, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Supporters of California Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman react after conceding the Governor's race to Democrat Jerry Brown during a campaign party in Universal City, Calif. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Terri Sewell celebrate her victory with her cousin Kindall Sewell- Murphy as the first African American woman to be elected to for the 7th Congressional District seat in Alabama, with family and friends in Selma, Ala. (Butch Dill / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle with her husband, Ted Angle, concedes defeat to supporters at the Nevada Republican Party's election results party at the Venetian Resort Hotel Casino after she lost to incumbent U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Supporters of Nevada Republican Party Senate candidate Sharron Angle react after news projected Democratic Party candidate Harry Reid as the winner of the race for the Nevada senate seat at the Nevada Republican Party's Election Night event in Las Vegas, NV. (Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks during the Nevada State Democratic election night party after defeating Sharron Angle to win re-election, in Las Vegas. (Jae C. Hong / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Angela Webb of Alabama, left, and Leah Stith of Virgina react after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was announced as the winner over Republican challenger Sharron Angle at the Nevada State Democratic Party's election results party at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter in Las Vegas. In one of the nation's most closely watched races, Reid retained his seat for a fifth term against Angle, a Tea Party favorite. (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. House Republican leader John Boehner breaks into tears during his speech as he addresses supporters at a Republican election night results watch rally in Washington, D.C. (Jim Young / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Supporters of Republican Senator Marco Rubio celebrate at his victory party in Coral Gables, Florida. (Gary I Rothstein / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. U.S. Senator John McCain is reflected on a teleprompter as he celebrates his victory with his daughter Meghan after defeating Democratic candidate Rodney Glassman in Phoenix, Arizona. (Joshua Lott / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Tammy Tideman of Mesa, Arizona and Carla Schwarte of Phoenix, Arizona hold "Fire Pelosi" sighn as Sen. John McCain speaks to the crowd during an Arizona Republican Party election night event in Phoenix, Arizona. (Laura Segall / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Democrat Bill White walks off the stage after addressing his election night party at the Hilton Americas Hotel in Houston. The former Houston mayor conceded defeat to incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry in the race. (Smiley N. Pool / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. President Barack Obama makes an election night phone call to Rep. John Boehner from his Treaty Room office in the White House residence. (Pete Souza / The White House) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Tea Party Patriots at an election night party celebrate an announcement that Republicans have gained the majority in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 2. (Ann Heisenfelt / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Terri Scofield of Medford checks her email for updates from the Board of Elections as she awaits elections results at the Suffolk County Democratic Committee Headquarters in Islandia, N.Y. (Kathy Kmonicek / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand D-NY celebrates her re-election at a rally in New York. Disenchanted U.S. voters swept Democrats from power in the House of Representatives and increased the ranks of Senate Republicans on Tuesday in an election rout that dealt a sharp rebuke to President Barack Obama. (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Harris Blackwood, communications director for Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal, holds a broom, claiming a sweep for Republicans at the Georgia Republican Party's election night watch party in Atlanta. (Brant Sanderlin / Atlanta Journal & Constitution / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Republican U.S. Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, a favorite among the conservative Tea Party movement, appears at an election night rally in Dover, Delaware. Democrat Christopher Coons won the U.S. Senate race in Delaware on Tuesday, keeping for Democrats a seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. (Jason Reed / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Michele Bachmann and other Republicans gather at the Sheraton Bloomington to await election results. (Tom Wallace / Star-Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Kentucky Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Rand Paul acknowledges supporters with wife Kelley at his election night rally in Bowling Green, Kentucky, November 2. (John Sommers II / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., arrives to celebrate his re-election with supporters at the Martin Luther King Jr. Democratic Club in New York. (Jason Decrow / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Supporters Rachel Smith, right, and Genevieve Fugere watch the returns of Democratic Mike McIntyre D-N.C., 7th House District at his election night headquarters at the Holiday Inn in Lumberton, North Carolina. (Jim R. Bounds / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Election worker Janet Smith processes ballots at the King County Elections headquarter in Seattle, Washington. Among the races and ballot initiatives here is the US Senate race between incumbent Senator Patty Murray and challenger Republican and former gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi, which is so close it could take several days to determine the winner. (Stephen Brashear / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Republican candidate for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, right, watches election results come in after the polls closed from a hotel restaurant with her husband Michael, left, son Nalin, 9, rear center, and daughter Rena, 12, right, in Columbia, South Carolina. (David Goldman / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Florida Governor Charlie Crist thanks supporters after conceding his defeat in his campaign for U.S. Senate to Republican Marco Rubio during a campaign party in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Brian Blanco / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Diana Reiner of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, left, and Keli Carender of Seattle, Washington, gather with a group known as the Tea Party Patriots for a 'Reclaiming the Capitol' rally at the US Capitol. The group planted a "special edition" of the historic Gadsden flag, the US flag, and the Tea Party Patriots banner into the ground in Washington, DC. Midterm elections are being held across the United States with many highly contested races that could threaten the political futures of numerous incumbents as well as change the balance in the Senate and House of Representatives. (Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Jamey Stehn leaves the Hope Social Hall after casting his ballot in Hope, Alaska. Stehn and the other 200 or so residents of Hope use the one-room log building built in 1902 as their polling place and activity hall. (Michael Dinneen / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Volunteer Justino Mora, left, joins members of the mariachi band "Los Munecos," and other Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles volunteers to urge immigrant voters to vote early in the California election in Los Angeles, California. The sign reads in Spanish: "Everybody to Vote." (Damian Dovarganes / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Congressman Joe Sestak speaks with a reporter after casting his ballot in Gradyville, Pennsylvania. Sestak faces Republican candidate Pat Toomey in the midterm election. (William Thomas Cain / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Sloan Atkins, 6, left, helps her mother, Coleen Atkins, as her sister Reese Atkins, 4, helps their father Anthony Oliva, right, fill out their ballots in West Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Sen. John McCain and his wife, Cindy, address the media outside a polling station in Phoenix as Apollo, a dog owned by McCain's son, Jimmy, licks the camera. (Matt York / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. A member of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers fills out his ballot at a polling station inside the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Spellman Room in Ossining, New York. (Jessica Rinaldi / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
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