Republicans gain in Senate and House

Fox News reports Republican gains in the Senate in an empty White House briefing room as poll numbers begin to pour in on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Washington.
Fox News reports Republican gains in the Senate in an empty White House briefing room as poll numbers begin to pour in on election day, Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2014, in Washington. The Associated Press

Republicans marched across the nation seizing seats held by Democrats as the party rode a wave of discontent with President Barack Obama and moved toward controlling both houses of Congress for the final two years of his presidency.

Republicans won Democratic-held Senate seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, nearing the six they needed to pick up to grab control of the Senate for the first time since January 2007.

Democrats had hoped to stop the Republican surge by toppling Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky, but McConnell easily beat Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Democrats did hold New Hampshire, where Sen. Jeanne Shaheen turned back a strong challenge from former Sen. Scott Brown. And they stopped the Republicans, at least for now, in Louisiana. Since no one got a majority, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu will face Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in a runoff next month.

Republicans held majority control of the House of Representatives and looked to add as many as a dozen seats, which would swell their ranks to a level Republicans haven’t achieved since 1949.

The results vividly demonstrated how constituents were frustrated with government, notably Obama, and most saw the country heading in the wrong direction.

Republicans did stand to benefit and had another unusual plus: A favorable electoral map. Democrats were defending 21 Senate seats to the Republicans’ 15. Seven of the Democratic seats were in states that went for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012 against Obama, including Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginian.

“This is probably the worst possible group of states for Democrats since Dwight Eisenhower,” Obama said Tuesday on WNPR in Connecticut.

Democrats held out some hope of slowing the Republican march.

In Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, was in a tight race with Republican businessman David Perdue for a seat now held by a Republican.

In Kansas, independent Greg Orman had a decent chance of toppling Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.

Neither party may know for a while who will run the chamber. Alaska’s results may not be final for days, and if no one gets a majority in Georgia, the top two finishers would face a runoff Jan. 6.

Orman in Kansas also would be a wild card. Running as an independent, Orman won’t say if he’d caucus with Republicans or Democrats. But Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday described Orman as “an independent who will be with us in the state of Kansas.”

A look at key Senate races:

– Georgia. Perdue won the Republican nomination campaigning as an outsider who would shake up Washington, but Nunn gained by questioning his business record. Because Libertarian Amanda Swafford could prevent either from getting a majority, a Jan. 6 runoff is possible.

– Kentucky. McConnell easily topped Democrat Grimes. Democrats once had big hopes of gaining a seat here, but McConnell slammed Grimes as a supporter of Obama policies, which are not popular in the state. Grimes tried hard to separate herself, but among her stumbles was her refusal last month to say whether she voted for Obama in 2012.

– West Virginia. Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito won election as the state’s first woman senator, defeating Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant in a race that was never considered close. Capito will be the state’s first female senator.

– North Carolina. Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan had a 0.7 percentage point lead over Republican Thom Tillis in an average of Oct. 19-Nov. 3 polls compiled by RealClearPolitics. The race was nasty and costly – campaigns aired more than 100,000 ads, according to The Charlotte Observer.

– New Hampshire. Brown, easily defeated in his 2012 re-election bid in Massachusetts, moved to his vacation home in New Hampshire. He was called a carpetbagger, a label he couldn’t escape.

– Arkansas. Republican Rep. Tom Cotton defeated Sen. Mark Pryor, the Democrat. Pyor lost after being hammered for supporting Obama on nine of 10 key votes last year, a liability in a state where the president’s approval ratings have hovered around 30 percent in recent polls.

– Kansas. No Republican has lost a Kansas Senate campaign since 1932. Roberts was seen as out of touch with the state, however, and was vulnerable. Roberts worked to define Orman as untested and a closet Democrat.

– Louisiana. Two conservatives, Cassidy and Rob Maness, were splitting the anti-Landrieu vote in a state where Obama is deeply unpopular. Cassidy is the likely favorite in a Dec. 6 runoff.

– South Dakota. Former Gov. Mike Rounds won a three-way battle to succeed Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat. Independent Larry Pressler, a Republican South Dakota senator from 1979 to 1997, made some inroads but faded.

– Colorado. Udall thought he could tar Republican Rep. Cory Gardner as a doctrinaire conservative with little regard for women’s rights. That strategy appeared to backfire, as the affable Gardner retained a sizable following among women. Key to this race could be Latino turnout, which would probably go heavily for Udall.

– Iowa. Republican Joni Ernst, a state senator, vaulted to prominence earlier this year with her down-to-earth pitch as a mother, soldier and independent. Democrat Bruce Braley maintained otherwise, saying she’s really a tea party zealot with a nice smile. Polls showed the race too close to call.

– Montana. Republican Rep. Steve Daines won the Senate seat easily. Any prospect of a competitive race evaporated when incumbent Sen. John Walsh, a Democrat, dropped out this summer after facing plagiarism allegations. Daines wound up with an easy path to victory.

– Alaska. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, is behind in polls but has a ground game that’s a proven success. His race with Republican Dan Sullivan is likely to be close and perhaps not decided for days.