With a landslide of wins in nearly every key state, the Republican Party has retaken the Senate majority for the first time in eight years. Coming into the election with only six seats needed to retake control and riding a wave of national Democratic discontent, the GOP painted the election results maps red. The sweep did not stop with the Senate races, as Republican candidates ousted incumbents and turned back challengers in governor’s races and the House as well.
The Republican Party now controls the Senate 52 seats to 45, with some states still to be finalized. Louisiana is headed to a runoff election Dec. 6 between Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy. Alaska has not yet finished tallying their votes. Always slow to count, the state is also one of the last to close its polls. At this time Republican challenger Dan Sullivan has a slight lead over incumbent Mark Begich. Virginia is still too close to call.
Out of key states identified before the elections, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia all went to the Republicans, with Michigan and New Hampshire managing to hold onto their Democratic seats. Even though the results are not finalized, party leaders have quickly hailed the trouncing of the Democrats as a rebuke to the White House and a mandate for change in Washington.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, released a statement last night acknowledging that his party had lost control and congratulating his Republican party counterpart Sen. Mitch McConnell, just re-elected in Kentucky. McConnell declared that the results signify the start of “the race to turn this country around.”
McConnell said that he did not expect that President Obama was going to view the world any differently when he woke up on Wednesday, and acknowledged that he would not either, but that both have an obligation to work together. He said that the two-party system does not mean there has to be perpetual conflict.
However, the new landscape means the Republican party now has new power to challenge the president’s agenda in his final two years in office. They will be able to launch investigations, hold hearings from both Senate and House, hold up key appointments, and pass GOP-favored legislation. Obama will be holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
With 36 Senate eats up for grabs on Tuesday, Republican party incumbents in Mississippi, Tennessee, Main, Wyoming, South Carolina, Idaho, Texas, Alabama and Oklahoma all held on. The open Nebraska Senate seat went to Republican Ben Sasse. Democratic senators in Illinois, New Jersey, Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Delaware and Rhode Island all retained their seats, and the open seat in Michigan went to Democrat Gary Peters.
Thirty-six gubernatorial races were also at stake. Nearly a dozen state governors were considered in danger, making it one of the toughest years for sitting governors in decades. Democratic incumbents in New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota, California, Colorado and Oregon held onto their seats, but many of the Republican victories came in reliably Democratic states. Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts all went to the GOP. President Obama’s home state of Illinois went with the Republican party on Tuesday, and Massachusetts has its first Republican governor since Mitt Romney. Republican Rick Scott defeated Charlie Crist in Florida’s highly publicized race.
The Obama factor weighed heavily on Democrats on Tuesday. Fox News exit polls showed that 34 percent of voters reported voting to show their opposition to Obama’s policies. Only 20 percent voted to show support for the president. The economy was the big with voters, with 43 percent reporting that it was the most important issue. Those people voted for the Republican party candidate by a 20-point difference according to exit polls.
By Beth A. Balen