Status Quo as Dems Hold Senate, GOP Keeps House
As the hotly contested U.S. presidential election drew to a close, Democrats appeared poised to keep control of the Senate while Republicans maintained their hold on the House of Representatives.
With Barack Obama seeing off a stiff challenge from Republican contender Mitt Romney just before midnight on Election Day, Republicans appeared to falter in their bid to seize control of both chambers of Congress — even as the GOP widened its majority in the House.
Early projections saw Democrats holding at least 50 seats in the Senate, with a few seats still remaining where results had not yet been ratified. The GOP was expected to win about 240 seats, upping its majority by about 10-15 seats.
Key races in Massachusetts, Indiana and Ohio, among others, had escaped the reach of Republicans — all but dashing their hopes to capture control of the Senate.
In one of the cycle's most closely-watched races, Democratic U.S. Rep Joe Donnelly in Indiana topped Tea Party backed Republican Richard Mourdock, NBC News projected.
The Hoosier State seat is being vacated by Republican Dick Lugar, a six-term senator and GOP heavyweight. The race was seen as pivotal to the Republicans' chances of taking control of the Senate. Several weeks ago, the contest was roiled by a comment about rape and pregnancy made by Mourdock, which may have cost him crucial support.
Meanwhile, voters in Virginia ultimately chose Democrat Tim Kaine over Republican George Allen, who held the seat before being ousted in 2006. The two former governors sparred in the election cycle's most prized political trophies.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren — a close Obama ally — was projected the winner against incumbent Republican Scott Brown. Two years ago, Brown shocked the political establishment by narrowly winning the seat once held by Ted Kennedy, scion of America's reigning political dynasties and the so-called "liberal lion of the Senate." A ballot issue legalizing the use of medical marijuana also passed muster with the voters.
In Connecticut, a deep blue state Democrats were seen winning handily, U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy was the projected the winner over Linda McMahon, the wealthy pro-wrestling executive, in a Senate seat being vacated by Independent Joe Lieberman. McMahon first rose to prominence two years ago when she spent millions to claim a seat from Democrat Chris Dodd. Ultimately, Democrat Richard Blumenthal won the election.
Independent candidate Bernie Sanders was the projected winner in Vermont, a state where President Barack Obama was projected as winner. Republican challenger Mitt Romney was projected as the winner of Indiana's 11 electoral college votes.
In Maine, independent Angus King was projected the winner of a seat being vacated by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. The former governor defeated Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill.
Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow was projected to have prevailed over her challenger, former Republican Pete Hoekstra. The state's 16 electoral college votes were awarded to Barack Obama, NBC News projected.
Nebraska was seen as a pick-up for the GOP, with Republican Deb Fischer prevailing over former Democratic senator and governor Bob Kerrey, who until recently was president of the New School University in New York City.
In Minnesota — a hive of battleground activity at the presidential level — incumbent Democrat Amy Klobuchar was seen the winner of a contest that pitted her against Republican Kurt Bills. Elsewhere, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was the projected winner over Republican Wendy Long, holding the seat once held by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
The reign of Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison was poised to end with the election of fellow GOPer Ted Cruz, who was the projected winner in a contest against Democrat Paul Sadler.
In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill was reelected over Republican Rep. Todd Akin, in a race that was seen as a solid chance of a GOP pick-up earlier this year. The GOP contender severely damaged his candidacy in August when he said women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in "legitimate rape."
Elsewhere, Ohio's incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown was the projected winner against young upstart Republican Josh Mandel. In battleground Pennsylvania, Democrat Senator Bob Casey managed to fend off a challenge from businessman Tom Smith, who invested more than $17 million of his own money. The state's 20 electoral votes will be awarded to Obama, NBC News projected.
In some of the more widely watched governor's races, Indiana Republican Mike Pence beat Democrat John Gregg; North Carolina elected Republican Pat McCrory beat Democrat Walter Dalton; while West Virginia voted in Democratic contender Earl Ray Tomblin over his Republican challenger, Bill Maloney. In Missouri, Democrat Jay Nixon was projected to beat Dave Spence, a Republican.
The Democratic incumbents in California and Washington, Dianne Feinstein and Maria Cantwell, beat back challenges from Republican insurgents. In Hawaii, also considered a reliably Democratic seat, Mazie Hirono was projected to beat GOP candidate Linda Lingle.