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.
In Indiana, Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.
Mourdock, a tea party favorite who defeated Lugar in the primary, slipped dramatically in the polls after he said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen.”
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. She won the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.
Democrats also retained Virginia’s Senate seat, as Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen, a former senator, in the battle of former Virginia governors. Kaine will fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.
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 - a coal country lawmaker who often broke with President Barack Obama on environmental and regulatory issues - 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. King, who defeated Democratic challenger Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers for the seat vacated by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe, hasn’t indicated which party he’ll caucus with.
Among Republicans, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee handily won re-election. In Texas, tea party-powered Republican candidate Ted Cruz won the Senate seat opened by the retirement of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The mysteries of which party would control the Senate and whether Democrats would weaken the Republican majority in the House of Representatives became clearer as congressional results from across the country began rolling in.
While much of the public and news-media attention focused on the battle between President Barack Obama and Republican White House hopeful Mitt Romney, the undercard races for the Senate and House carried their own significance, and - in some contests - their own amount of drama.
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.
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