WASHINGTON -- Democrats retained control of the Senate on Tuesday while Republicans will continue to rule the House of Representatives, after congressional elections that featured several high-profile races.
Democrats swept some of the most prominent Senate contests, including the face-off between incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democrat and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.
In Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. Mourdock, a tea party favorite who defeated Lugar in the primary, slipped dramatically in the polls after he said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”
Similarly, in Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, long thought to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents, defeated Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who created a controversy this summer when he said that women rarely got pregnant in case of “legitimate rape.” A lot of mainline Republican support deserted him as a result.
In Wisconsin, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin bested popular Republican former Gov. Tommy Thompson, becoming the first openly gay member of the Senate. She won the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.
Democrats also retained Virginia’s Senate seat, as Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen, a former senator, in the battle of former Virginia governors. Kaine will fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.
In Nebraska, however, former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey’s quest to regain his seat failed. He lost to Nebraska state lawmaker Deb Fischer.
In the House, television networks projected that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would continue to wield the gavel with a majority that might grow once the evening ends. The House results represent a bitter setback for Democrats, who had hoped to at least make a dent in the Republican majority.
On the Senate side, Republican dreams of picking up four seats and becoming the majority party in that chamber seemed dashed as incumbent Democrats racked up early wins. Democrats held on to six seats early as Sens. Bill Nelson of Florida, Joe Manchin of West Virginia — a coal country lawmaker who often broke with President Barack Obama on environmental and regulatory issues — Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Thomas Carper of Delaware and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland won easily.
Their sixth win was a marquee match in New England, where Democratic Rep. Christopher Murphy defeated Republican challenger Linda McMahon, a former wrestling executive who spent more than $42 million of her own money on her campaign, for the open Connecticut Senate seat created by the retirement of independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who caucused with the Democrats.
Two New England independents, incumbent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, won their contests. Sanders, a fierce liberal, caucuses and often votes with the Democrats. King, who defeated Democratic challenger Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers for the seat being vacated by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe, hasn’t indicated which party he’ll caucus with. Among Republicans, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee handily won reelection. In Texas, tea party-powered Republican candidate Ted Cruz won the Senate seat opened by the retirement of Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
There was no doubt that the GOP would continue to control the House.
Republicans hold a 240-190 majority in the House; Democrats needed a net gain of 25 seats to recapture control. While control of the House didn’t change, the chamber won’t be the same. The combination of open seats and incumbent losses will bring in another huge freshman class, perhaps larger than the 93 in 2010.