Boosted by Trump, Republicans Hold the Senate

The Republicans held onto their majority in the U.S. Senate after a record-breaking Election Day.

The Associated Press made the call that the GOP would hold a majority after incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska won her race.

The Democrats had to win five seats if Trump won the White House. They couldn’t do it.

It is unclear if the GOP will have 51, 52, or 53 seats. They lost one seat for sure.

But they put up a wall and protected incumbents on Tuesday. Buoyed by intense Republican voter interest and a powerful, winning performance from Donald Trump atop the ticket, several endangered GOP Senate incumbents survived tough challenges.

Trump’s strong performance in particular appears to have lifted the tide for troubled Republican Senate candidates.

Hillary Clinton and Democrats sought to tie her fortunes to the Democratic candidates for Senate later in the year, but had trouble exciting voters. The Republican victory for the Senate is likely an indication voters want a GOP Congress to work with Trump on immigration and health care.

The GOP Senate victories are also indicative of a voter rejection of outgoing President Obama's Democratic agenda. Especially hurtful to Democrats late in the elections season were two things: large increases in Obamacare health insurance premiums, and the revelation that the FBI was looking at Clinton's email scandal anew.

The night took a bad and fateful turn for Democrats immediately. Indiana Rep. Todd Young, a Republican, beat former Sen. Evan Bayh, a Democrat, in a race Young was widely expected to lose since last summer.

Bayh had come back to Indiana to run in July, but had immediate questions about his residency and closeness to big-dollar lobbying firms. Bayh owns a multi-million-dollar home in Georgetown, D.C., where he has resided since leaving the Senate in 2011.

The seat was open because Republican Dan Coats was retiring. Indiana's open seat battle figured prominently in Democratic schemes to win just enough seats to pry the Senate majority from the Republicans, who reascended to majority status after the 2014 elections.

The Republicans held 54 seats. The Democrats held 44 seats with two independent allies. Republicans had to defend 24 of 34 seats up for election in 2016.

The Democrats had to win four new seats, or five seats if Trump wins the White House. They couldn't do it.

The next good news for Republicans came when Sen. Ron Johnson, Republican senator from Wisconsin, beat the man he bested in 2010. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, a liberal Democrat, will not return to the seat he first won in 1992. Johnson beat him in the Republican midterm wave of 2010.

The Trump-Johnson team then lifted the presidential ticket to win Wisconsin for the first time since 1988.

Then embattled incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey, Republican from Pennsylvania, won a gripping battle with Katie McGinty, a former aide to ex-President Bill Clinton.

Toomey had been former president of the Club for Growth, a free-market political committee based in Washington. He declined to endorse Trump but later admitted he voted for Trump.

Not all were winners.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, a first-term Republican from Illinois, lost in an overwhelming defeat to U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth, a Democrat. Kirk could not overcome the vote totals from overwhelmingly Democratic Cook County.

But Kirk had other problems. He attacked Trump for Trump's remarks made throughout the year, and withdrew his endorsement.

Kirk also made a huge gaffe at a debate when he suggested Duckworth's father was not an American and had not served the U.S. military. Duckworth's father is an American who traces his ancestors back to a Revolutionary War soldier. Duckworth's mother is a Thai immigrant.

During an Oct. 27 debate, Kirk mocked Duckworth after she made reference to her lineage.

"I had forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," Kirk said.

And then came the open-seat battle for Harry Reid's Nevada office. The outgoing Democratic minority leader had struggled to crank out voters to win the state for Clinton, but also for his favored successor, Catherine Cortez Masto.

Republican Rep. Joe Heck had struggled to maintain a lead he had earlier this year. He could not prevail due to huge early voting by Democrats.

But Heck's loss didn't hurt the GOP, as a Democrat holds it now — just as Young's win didn't add a seat to the GOP margins because it is held by a Republican now.

Democrats saw their fortunes dim after picking  Kirk off and then holding Harry Reid's Nevada seat.

Incumbent Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Richard Burr of North Carolina, and Rob Portman of Ohio all won. Portman and Rubio surged to easy wins.

Portman had put the race to bed weeks ago, and Rubio followed. Burr had to fight longer but prevailed as Republican turnout in the Tar Heel State was great.

After that, a number of safer incumbents won: Rand Paul of Kentucky and Charles Grassley of Iowa.

The news that a GOP majority will return to the Senate keeps safe the Supreme Court majority of conservatives.

Last Modified: November 9, 2016, 8:10 am

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