Dems cut into Senate lead, but GOP still eyes majority
Control of the Senate was still very much in doubt as Wednesday morning dawned, with the two parties trading seat pickups and a half-dozen races still too close to call.
The GOP, which entered the election with 53 seats, is down one after Democrats netted Arizona and Colorado, but Republicans re-captured Alabama.
Republicans also held leads in most of the remaining six races, but with varying degrees of confidence that they will hold.
In Michigan, Sen. Gary Peters, a Democrat, trailed Republican challenger John James by 2.5 points with about 15% of the ballots still to be cast. Those additional votes were expected to be heavily Democratic.
In Alaska, Maine and North Carolina, GOP incumbents were looking to fend off fierce challenges.
Sen. Thom Tillis, the Republican incumbent in North Carolina, claimed victory with a lead of nearly 2 points Tuesday night, though his opponent hadn’t conceded.
“What we accomplished tonight was a stunning victory,” the Republican said, adding that he’d done his part “to save the Senate” for the GOP.
The other two remaining races are both in Georgia. One of them is headed for a runoff in January, since no candidate cleared the 50% mark. In the other, GOP Sen. David Perdue held a 4-point lead over Jon Ossoff with about 10% of votes still to be counted — and, like Michigan, those votes were expected to trend Democratic.
That race, too, could end up in a runoff if neither candidate tops 50%.
But the GOP was sighing with relief after defending a number of tough seats, such as Iowa, where Sen. Joni Ernst won a second term, and Montana, where Sen. Steve Daines was reelected.
Elsewhere, longtime Republicans cruised to relatively easy victories.
Sen. Lindsey Graham also won a fourth term in South Carolina, Sen. John Cornyn emerged victorious in Texas, and Rep. Roger Marshall held onto a seat of a retiring Republican in Kansas — though the fact that Republican victories in those states were headline-worthy suggested just how tough the map was for the GOP.
In Kentucky, Democrats once again mounted a fierce effort to oust Sen. Mitch McConnell, the top Republican on Capitol Hill. angered by Mr. McConnell’s role in defeating their attempt to impeach President Trump, then confirming his third Supreme Court nominee just days before the election, liberal donors poured money into Democrat Amy McGrath’s campaign, giving her a massive financial advantage.
Mr. McConnell trounced her anyway, leading by more than 20 points Wednesday morning,
“Democrats threw everything they had at him and he vanquished his opponent in typical fashion,” said Sen. Todd Young, chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner surrendered the seat he’d won in a 2014 upset, doomed by a pro-Trump voting record in an increasingly blue state. Former Gov. Gary Hickenlooper, a Democrat, cruised to an easy win.
“Being a ‘yes man’ for Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell sealed Cory Gardner’s fate long ago and tonight Colorado voters made it official,” said J.B. Poersch, president of the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, a Democratic campaign outfit.
In Arizona, Sen. Martha McSally lost her second race in two years.
She’d run for Arizona’s other seat in 2018, lost, then was named to fill the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain. Votes are still being counted, but the race was called by numerous news organizations with Democrat Mark Kelly up by nearly 9 points.
Alabama was essentially the reverse of Colorado. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones had won the seat in a special election in 2017, and spent the ensuing years amassing a starkly liberal voting record in a deep red state. His votes in 2018 and again last week against Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominees were among the moves that doomed him.
Republicans went into the night holding 53 seats, but most election prognosticators were betting on Democrats to emerge with at least 50 seats, and even Mr. McConnell had said the GOP’s chances were only 50-50 to maintain control.
At his victory party, Mr. McConnell called for Washington to seek a cooler temperature than has prevailed in recent years.
“Our country is going to get back on our feet. Our nation has real challenges and real adversaries, but our fellow citizens are not our enemies,” he said.
He also warned against radical changes to the way government operates, seemingly cautioning Democrats against overreaching after the Supreme Court fight.
“This is no time to declare war on our institutions because one side is angry,” he said.