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Republicans likely retain control of Senate, House

By Eric DuVall
Republicans likely retain control of Senate, House
Republicans will retain control of the House of Representatives, though it still remains too soon to say what their margin of control will be. Democrats have landed one of the five seats they will need to retake control of the Senate. Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 (UPI) -- Republicans rallied to what appears to be control of both houses of Congress, overcoming a major disadvantage in the Senate landscape to retain their majority.

While two Senate races in Louisiana and Alaska have yet to be called, Republicans are widely expected to win in both states.

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Among the nine true battleground races, the GOP has won six, all but assuring they will have at least a 51-seat majority when the new Congress gavels into session in 2017. The GOP was previously projected to retain its large House majority, leaving the balance of power on Capitol Hill unchanged.

It remains unclear what the GOP majority will be in the House, but NBC News was first to report they will at least remain in control and it is likely Speaker Paul Ryan will remain in that leadership roll to begin 2017.

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In Missouri, incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of the GOP Senate leadership, beat back a surprisingly stiff challenge from Democrat Jason Kander, a 35-year-old war veteran and the Missouri secretary of State.

In Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, the state's former attorney general, defeated Republican Rep. Joe Heck in the open seat race in Nevada. The seat is being vacated by the retiring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

In Pennsylvania, incumbent Sen. Pat Toomey defeated Democrat Katie McGinty in a tightly fought race.

RELATED Senate turnover: Illinois called for Tammy Duckworth

GOP Sen. Ron Johnson pulled a stunning upset in Wisconsin after polls had shown him trailing for months until a late surge near election day.

GOP. Sen. Richard Burr held onto his seat in North Carolina in a tightly contested race over Democrat Deborah Ross.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio won re-election to his seat in Florida, a race he entered late, only after his presidential campaign faltered.

RELATED Florida's Marco Rubio defeats Patrick Murphy for second term in Senate

And Tammy Duckworth, the Democratic Illinois congresswoman, defeated incumbent GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in a race that was widely predicted would hand Democrats one of the seats they were looking for.

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Though Duckworth finished off her opponent as expected, Democrats failed to win a seat in Indiana they had eyed as a prime pickup opportunity. Evan Bayh, a former Democratic senator and governor from the state, made a late entry into the race and immediately gave his party hope they could flip a seat that looked to remain safely in Republican hands after a GOP retirement created an open seat race in a traditionally conservative state. Instead Rep. Todd Young defeated Bayh, leaving Democrats in a hole in their bid for a Senate majority.

The map for the Senate favored Democrats this year, with all but one of nine seats most likely to decide the balance being held by Republicans.

RELATED Todd Young defeats former Gov. Evan Bayh in Indiana for open Senate seat

The nine races where a seat is open or most likely to change hands were in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Nevada, Florida and Indiana. Of that group, seven seats belong to Republican incumbents trying to hang on. Only two are open seats, Indiana and Nevada. The only one in Democratic hands presently is Nevada, where Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is retiring.

Coming into Tuesday, the House seemed a much safer bet for Republicans -- and the election night tallies proved true. The GOP held an enormous 59-seat advantage coming into Tuesday. The non-partisan Cook political report listed 18 seats as pure tossups, not enough to flip control of the chamber to Democrats, even if they ran the table in all of them. Republicans are projected to retain control of that chamber.

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