Washington: Democratic chances of taking control of the Senate were greatly diminished after several vulnerable Republican incumbents including Joni Ernst in Iowa and Steve Daines in Montana fended off strong well-financed Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s election.
With several races still to be called, all indications pointed to a closely divided Senate when the next Congress convenes in January, no matter which party ultimately wins control.
“I have a very hard time right now seeing how Democrats win back the Senate,” Jessica Taylor, the Senate editor of the Cook Political Report, said in a tweet. “It’s just that virtually everything has to go right for them. And so far tonight, almost nothing has.”
Democrats took a Senate seat from Republicans in Colorado and were in position to do the same in Arizona. But they fell short in several of the tossup contests they had in their sights on to gain a majority.
Daines defeated Democratic Governor Steve Bullock and GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina were holding on to leads in early vote counts.
Republicans now hold a 53-47 Senate majority and Democrats would have to win in Arizona, Maine and North Carolina along with Colorado in order to claim a majority if Democrat Joe Biden prevails over President Donald Trump in the presidential contest. Democrats also will have another shot at a Senate seat in Georgia in a runoff election scheduled for January.
Based on polls and independent analysts, Democrats had been favored to achieve their goal going into Election Day. Yet the battle for the Senate closely mirrored the race at the top of the ballot between Trump and Biden and proved to be much closer than many pre-election polls and forecasts had indicated.
Democrat John Hickenlooper defeated GOP incumbent Cory Gardner in Colorado and retired astronaut Mark Kelly had a strong lead over Republican Senator Martha McSally in Arizona. Biden won Colorado and was leading in Arizona.
Yet Trump victories in states including South Carolina and Iowa helped pull along GOP Senate candidates. In addition to Ernst, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham easily held off a Democratic challenger who had raised record amounts of money. Both Ernst and Trump had closely aligned themselves with Trump, counting on an energized GOP base to re-elect them.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won re-election to a seventh term in Kentucky, handily defeating former Marine pilot Amy McGrath, whose campaign was lavished with money from Democrats across the country.
Democrats missed in two other longshot bids to flip Republican seats. In Texas, incumbent Republican John Cornyn defeated Air Force combat veteran MJ Hegar. Republican Roger Marshall won the open Kansas Senate seat, defeating a well-funded Barbara Bollier in a race Democrats had hopes of winning if there was a wave election.
As expected, Democrats lost a Senate seat in heavily Republican Alabama that had been held by Doug Jones, who was defeated by former college football coach Tommy Tuberville.
The final outcome of the battle for the Senate might not be known for days while votes are tallied — or even months if control of the chamber hinges on the Georgia runoff.
Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by the governor, will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, in the runoff. In the other Georgia contest, Republican incumbent David Perdue was leading Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who narrowly lost an Atlanta-area House special election in 2017.
Democrats appeared poised to keep their House majority. But there, too, they fell short of expectations of a gain of a dozen or more House seats. Several Democratic incumbents were defeated.
Several incumbent senators were re-elected, with many of those races not much in doubt.
Democratic Senator Mark Warner was easily re-elected to a third term in Virginia and Republican Shelley Moore Capito won a second term in West Virginia, according to Associated Press projections. Incumbent Democrats Edward Markey in Massachusetts, Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Jack Reed in Rhode Island, Chris Coons in Delaware and Dick Durbin in Illinois also won re-election.
Along With McConnell and Capito, Republican James Inhofe won re-election in Oklahoma. In Tennessee, Republican Bill Hagerty won the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, who is retiring. South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds and Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse also were re-elected. In Wyoming, Republican Cynthia Lummis won election to the seat now held by Mike Enzi, who is retiring.- Bloomberg