Senate Republicans expanded their 51-seat majority on Tuesday, overcoming historic political headwinds that cost their party the House.
The results in key battleground races mark a major victory for the caucus and Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) and will provide President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE with a GOP firewall in Congress as emboldened House Democrats are itching to launch new investigations into the administration.
Republicans quickly dashed any Democratic hopes of flipping the Senate by defeating two red-state incumbents and holding onto Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote The Hill’s Morning Report – Trump’s public standing sags after Floyd protests GOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police MORE’s seat in Texas. By early Wednesday, they had toppled Democratic Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyEx-Sen. Joe Donnelly endorses Biden Lobbying world 70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents MORE (Ind.), Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn Heitkamp70 former senators propose bipartisan caucus for incumbents Susan Collins set to play pivotal role in impeachment drama Pro-trade group launches media buy as Trump and Democrats near deal on new NAFTA MORE (N.D.) and Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillMissouri county issues travel advisory for Lake of the Ozarks after Memorial Day parties Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns Amash on eyeing presidential bid: ‘Millions of Americans’ want someone other than Trump, Biden MORE (Mo.).
They also appeared poised to pick up Florida, though a spokesman for Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonNASA, SpaceX and the private-public partnership that caused the flight of the Crew Dragon Lobbying world The most expensive congressional races of the last decade MORE (D-Fla.) said Wednesday morning that the three-term senator had not conceded to Gov. Rick Scott (R).
“Based on numerous media reports the U.S. Senate race has been called for Rick Scott. This obviously is not the result Senator Nelson and his campaign had worked so hard for. The Senator will be making a full statement tomorrow to thank all those who rallied to our cause,” Nelson’s campaign said in a statement.
In addition to preventing an upset in Texas, Republicans held onto retiring Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Trump asserts his power over Republicans Romney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force MORE’s seat in Tennessee, with Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police GOP senators dodge on treatment of White House protesters Five things to know about Trump’s legal power under the Insurrection Act MORE (R-Tenn.) easily defeating former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D).
The end result will give Republicans at least a 52-seat majority starting in January, with the potential to add additional seats in the coming weeks.
A special election in Mississippi is headed to a Nov. 27 runoff between Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who was appointed to succeed retiring Sen. Thad CochranWilliam (Thad) Thad CochranEspy wins Mississippi Senate Democratic primary Bottom Line Mike Espy announces Mississippi Senate bid MORE (R-Miss.), and Democratic candidate Mike Espy, a former U.S. Agriculture secretary.
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The Arizona Senate race between Reps. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP senators introduce resolution opposing calls to defund the police No evidence of unauthorized data transfers by top Chinese drone manufacturer: study Senate Democratic campaign arm launches online hub ahead of November MORE (R-Ariz.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is not expected to be called until later this week since more ballots need to be counted to break the statistical tie.
And Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate confirms Trump’s watchdog for coronavirus funds Montana barrels toward blockbuster Senate fight The 10 Senate seats most likely to flip MORE (D-Mont.), after leading in election results for most of Tuesday night, had fallen behind GOP challenger Matt Rosendale as of 2 a.m. EST on Wednesday.
But even if Democrats win in Arizona, Montana and Mississippi, it won’t be enough to flip control of the Senate. The best possible outcome for Democrats would be a 52-48 Republican majority.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Democrats were able to turn a Democratic “tsunami into a ripple.”
“With gains in the Senate, Republicans defied history, an achievement reached only four times in history,” she said, referencing the rarity of the president’s party picking up Senate seats during the first midterm in a presidency.
The GOP’s path to keeping, and even expanding, its Senate majority was aided mightily by a favorable map that saw Republicans defending nine seats compared to 26 for Democrats, 10 of which were in states won by Trump in 2016.
Heitkamp’s race was expected to end up in Republican hands, and a few other seats held by Democrats were locked in a statistical tie heading into Election Day.
As control of the House appeared to fade for Republicans in recent weeks, Trump homed in on Senate races, barnstorming through key states that would determine if Republicans would be able to keep and expand their majority in the chamber.
McConnell and Trump spoke on Tuesday night amid the favorable election results, a spokesman for the Senate GOP leader confirmed, and McConnell thanked the president for his help in picking up seats.
McConnell also took a victory lap on Tuesday night, with his campaign account tweeting a GIF of the GOP leader smiling.
The two men have touted their relationship during the midterm campaign, a stark turnaround from the summer of 2017, when they were locked in a public war of words after the failed ObamaCare vote.
Aside from setting up a competitive Senate fight in 2020, the expanded majority could pay dividends for Republicans starting next year.
Though long-held GOP goals like repealing ObamaCare are off the table with a Democratically controlled House, Republicans will have a smoother path to confirming controversial Trump nominees as senators brace for a massive post-midterm Cabinet shake-up.
“When the GOP maintains control of the Senate, the conservative judicial train is going to keep running!” GOP Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op MORE (S.C.), who could be the next Judiciary Committee chairman, said in a tweet.
Several Trump picks have been thwarted by the narrow Senate majority that effectively gives moderate GOP senators the power to make or break their nomination. A larger majority will change that dynamic.
Tuesday wasn’t without some bright spots for Senate Democrats, who worked throughout the cycle to limit their liabilities.
Democratic Sens. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (W.Va.), Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests | Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition tech | FBI warns hackers are targeting mobile banking apps Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE (Ohio), Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick Casey21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US ‘terminating’ relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge 10 things to know today about coronavirus MORE Jr. (Pa.), Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinBiden launches program to turn out LGBTQ vote We need a ‘9-1-1’ for mental health — we need ‘9-8-8’ Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump’s power under Insurrection Act MORE (Wis.) and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSheldon Whitehouse leads Democrats into battle against Trump judiciary Bill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (Mich.), each won reelection in states that voted for Trump in 2016.
Democrats also staved off GOP upsets in New Jersey and Minnesota: Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezGOP’s Obama-era probes fuel Senate angst Government watchdog: ‘No evidence’ Pompeo violated Hatch Act with Kansas trips No time to be selling arms to the Philippines MORE (N.J.) won reelection and Sen. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithGun control group rolls out first round of Senate endorsements Pelosi: George Floyd death is ‘a crime’ Senate Democrat introduces bill to protect food supply MORE (Minn.) was elected to serve out the final two years of Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: ‘Why wait until Biden is our only hope?’ Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE’s Senate term.
And Democrats managed to flip a GOP seat as Rep. Jacky RosenJacklyn (Jacky) Sheryl RosenThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees ‘strong likelihood’ of another relief package; Warner says some businesses ‘may not come back’ at The Hill’s Advancing America’s Economy summit The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: CDC Director Redfield responds to Navarro criticism; Mnuchin and Powell brief Senate panel Hillicon Valley: Experts raise security concerns about online voting | Musk finds supporter in Trump | Officials warn that Chinese hackers targeting COVID-19 research groups MORE (Nev.) ousted Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R), the only Republican running in a state carried by former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE in 2016. Rosen’s victory is a significant bright spot in an otherwise bitter election night for Senate Democrats and comes after the party swept the state in 2016.