Republicans seize control of US Senate

Republicans seize control of US Senate

In an Election Day romp, Republicans seized control of the Senate on Tuesday, grabbing the six seats they needed to put Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in charge of the chamber and give the GOP complete control of Congress for the last two years of the Obama administration.

In short order, Republicans sent Democrats packing in Arkansas, Colorado and North Carolina while notching four open seats to land the majority needed to wrest control of the Senate.

In Colorado, GOP Rep. Cory Gardner defeated Sen. Mark Udall, claiming victory in spite of a powerful ground game by Democrats similar to the one that helped propel President Barack Obama to both of his White House wins.

In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor was dispatched by Tom Cotton, an Iraq combat veteran and Harvard Law School graduate.

In Kentucky, McConnell swept to an easy victory over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Meanwhile in North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis unseated Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan after a campaign that became a nasty and free-spending battleground for outside groups on both sides.

Tillis, whose tenure as speaker of the Republican-led state House became a major issue in the campaign, rode a wave of discontent with Obama to beat Hagan, a one-term incumbent who failed to inspire much passion even in her base.

A crowd at Tillis’ party erupted in cheers and chants of “USA! USA!” when the race was called for the Republican at 11:28 p.m. local time.

The GOP also won open seats in West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota and Iowa.

The closely contested race for Senate in Louisiana was headed for a runoff next month, after none of the candidates received a majority of the vote Tuesday. Three-term Democrat Mary L. Landrieu will face Rep. Bill Cassidy, but she faces even more difficult odds in holding her seat, when the GOP vote will no longer be split between two prominent candidates.

The midterm election cycle nationally drew $4 billion in spending despite a largely disinterested electorate.

In Colorado, voters appeared to reject Democrats’ efforts to cast Gardner as an extremist who would restrict women’s access to birth control and abortion services. The congressman gave up a safe GOP House seat in eastern Colorado to challenge Udall, hoping to turn the tide for Colorado Republicans, who have not won a Senate race in more than a decade.

In Arkansas, Pryor was the heir to a political dynasty _ his father is a popular former governor and senator _ and he was elected unopposed to his second term six years ago, winning 80 percent of the vote.

Since then, Republicans have claimed the Arkansas statehouse, the House delegation and the other Senate seat. President Bill Clinton, an Arkansas native, was among the Democrats laboring for Pryor, who like other Democrats was dragged down by the unpopularity of President Obama.

In an ironic twist, Cotton represents the southwestern corner of the state, including the small town of Hope, where Clinton was raised. At 37, Cotton will become the youngest member of the United States Senate.

Replacing retiring Democratic Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV in West Virginia, Shelley Moore Capito became the first GOP senator to represent the Mountain State since the 1950s. In South Dakota, Republican Mike Rounds, a former governor, defeated Democrat Rick Weiland for the state’s Senate seat. In Montana, Republican Rep. Steve Daines easily dispatched Democratic newcomer Amanda Curtis.

In one of the most expensive and closely watched governor’s races, Florida Gov. Rick Scott beat back a challenge from former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat.

In Wisconsin, Republican Scott Walker weathered a strong challenge from Democratic opponent Mary Burke to win re-election and position himself for an expected 2016 bid for president.

The one bright spot for Democrats was a victory in New Hampshire, where Sen. Jean Shaheen staved off a stiff challenge from Republican Scott Brown, a former Massachusetts senator who moved from the neighboring state expressly to challenge Shaheen.

As the defeats rolled in, Obama invited congressional leaders from both parties to the White House on Friday afternoon, a White House aide said Tuesday night. The meeting comes before Obama is to depart over the weekend for a weeklong trip to Asia and Australia.

In Kentucky, McConnell, a powerful five-term lawmaker, claimed victory at his election night headquarters in Louisville by telling supporters he was ready to tackle the gridlock in Washington.

“Tomorrow the papers will say I won this race. But the truth is, tonight we begin another one, one that’s far more important than mine, and that’s to turn this country around,” McConnell told the crowd.

“I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any differently than he does now. He knows I won’t either,” McConnell said. “But we do have an obligation to work together on the issues where we can agree…. Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.”

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