Democrats optimistic about keeping Senate; House likely to stay GOP-led

Information provided by McClatchy-Tribune Wire Service

WASHINGTON—Democrats appeared to retain 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 high-profile Senate contests, including the face-off between incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown and Democrat and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren.

Early returns showed Sen. Dianne Feinstein was leading GOP contender Elizabeth Emken in the California race.

In Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.

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.

Democrats also retained Virginia’s Senate seat, as Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen, a former senator, in the battle of former Virginia governors.

In the House, television networks projected that Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, would continue to wield the speaker’s gavel with a majority that might grow once the evening ends. The House results represent a bitter setback for Democrats, who’d 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, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Thomas Carper of Delaware and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland won easily.

The sixth 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.
Republicans were hoping to wrest control of the Senate from Democrats, who, along with two independents who vote mainly Democratic, control 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats.

While Democrats and Republicans jousted for control of the Senate, there was no doubt that the latter would continue to wield the speaker’s gavel in the House.

Republicans hold a 240-190 majority in the House; Democrats would need a net gain of 25 seats to recapture control. That was a tall order, largely because redistricting in several Republican-controlled states helped secure incumbents and created friendlier terrain for Republican challengers.