Republicans have won enough competitive Senate races to ensure they’ll retain control of the chamber, according to calls by multiple media outlets.
Republican incumbents in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and North Carolina all beat back Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s elections. The party held on to an open seat in Indiana too.
So far, the only incumbent GOP senator who lost his seat was Mark Kirk of Illinois, who was defeated by Rep. Tammy Duckworth. The race in New Hampshire, where GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte faced a challenge from Gov. Maggie Hassan, remains too close to call.
But with only that one outstanding race left, the only question is whether Democrats end up with a net gain of one seat or two (which would put them at 47 and 48 seats, respectively). They could even, conceivably, have a net gain of zero if Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia switches parties, as was rumored on Tuesday (though an anonymous source tells Politico he won’t do so).
A triumph for Republican incumbents
The 2016 cycle was long thought to be a tremendously difficult one for Republicans. Since they were defending 24 seats compared with the Democrats’ mere 10, the chamber’s opposition party was unmistakably on offense.
But there were reasons to be skeptical that the Democrats’ triumph was so certain, as I wrote two years ago. One is that it’s historically been difficult to beat a lot of Senate incumbents — most senators generally do manage to appropriately position themselves for their states and get reelected. Another is that many of the Republican incumbents up this year simply were talented politicians (Marco Rubio, Rob Portman, Kelly Ayotte).
In the end, though, Donald Trump’s unexpected strength in swing states managed to be enough to allow several of these Republicans to get over the line too.
In Wisconsin, Sen. Ron Johnson hung on against former Sen. Russ Feingold, running a few points ahead of Trump in the state.
In Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey beat back a challenge from Katie McGinty, helped by Donald Trump’s triumph in his state.
In North Carolina, Sen. Richard Burr survived a challenge from Deborah Ross despite a campaign some political professionals deemed to be “lazy.”
In Indiana, Rep. Todd Young won an open seat even though Evan Bayh launched a well-funded bid for his old seat.
In Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt defeated a challenge from Jason Kander, whom Democrats had believed to be a promising young recruit.
The sole bright spots for Democrats were the victories of Duckworth in Illinois and Catherine Cortez Masto in Nevada, who will be two new nonwhite women senators. But that will be cold comfort as the party remains in the minority despite the existence of a vacancy on the Supreme Court and what looks increasingly like a Republican presidency.