Democrats are almost assured of retaining their U.S. Senate majority after Republicans lost seats in Indiana, Massachusetts and Maine.
In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly, a congressman, defeated Republican Richard Mourdock, who in May defeated six-term incumbent Richard Lugar in a primary vote. Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown lost to Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren, according to television networks.
In Maine, independent Angus King beat a Republican and a Democrat for the seat being vacated by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, whose decision in February to retire was an early blow to Republicans’ hopes of gaining Senate control. King is expected to caucus with Democrats.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat once considered the party’s most vulnerable in the chamber, held off a challenge by Republican Todd Akin.
Democrats control the Senate 53-47. Republicans have needed to pick up four net seats to gain a majority.
Democratic candidates in Connecticut, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania held on to seats the party now controls that were considered competitive.
Democrat Chris Murphy defeated Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., for the Senate seat in Connecticut now held by retiring Senator Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Murphy is a three-term U.S. congressman.
Senator Sherrod Brown defeated Republican challenger Josh Mandel in Ohio, a presidential battleground state.
In Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson of Florida won a third term, defeating Republican Representative Connie Mack IV. Nelson, the only Democrat holding a statewide office in Florida, was first elected to the seat in 2000 after Connie Mack III retired.
Democratic Senator Bob Casey defeated Republican Tom Smith in Pennsylvania.
The Senate electoral landscape was supposed to favor Republicans, who were defending 10 seats compared with 23 Democratic seats on the ballot this year in the 100-seat chamber. The odds of a Republican majority dropped from 70 percent in February to just below 40 percent, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington.
Series of Setbacks
A series of setbacks diminished Republicans’ chances for taking control of the chamber, including Snowe’s decision to retire in a Democratic-leaning state and Indiana Senator Lugar’s primary loss. Cook rated 10 races as “toss-up,” where neither party appeared to have a clear advantage.
Less than two weeks before election day, Mourdock, the Indiana state treasurer, imperiled his attempt to replace Lugar by referring to pregnancies resulting from rape as “something God intended to happen.”
To gain the majority, Republicans needed to hold all five of their competitive seats, including in Indiana and Massachusetts, and pick up four currently held by Democrats.
If Republican Mitt Romney wins the White House, they would need a net gain of three because vice presidents cast tie- breaking votes.
The next Congress will face divisive tax-and-spending issues after years of unsuccessfully trying to reduce the budget deficit. Lawmakers also may have to address the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and spending cuts that will start in January if Congress doesn’t act in a lame-duck session beginning this month.
Continued gridlock would be probable next year in a Congress with an unchanged balance of power, said Jennifer Duffy, Senate analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington. Both parties will “find things in this election to encourage them to continue to behave as they’ve behaved the last two to four years,” she said.
The top Senate races were flooded with advertising funded by outside partisan groups, including Virginia with $35 million, Wisconsin with $30.7 million, Ohio with $27 million and Indiana with $21.5 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington.
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