Breaking: The Senate will remain in Republican control, after Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) beat out his Democratic challenger Katie McGinty to retain his seat, dashing the Democrats’ hope of a return to power in Congress next year.
The House will remain in Republican control next year, after Democrats made only modest pickups, as Democrats also faced bleak odds of wresting the Senate from GOP control.
Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto is projected to win the state’s open Senate seat over Republican Rep. Joe Heck, but returns in other races suggest it would be exceptionally difficult for Democrats to carve out a pathway to majority control in the Senate, even if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.
Cortez Masto likely benefited from a powerful turnout machine built by current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who is retiring from the Nevada seat Cortez Masto won.
But elsewhere, Democrats were not scoring the victories they had hoped for.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson beat out former senator and favored Democratic candidate Russ Feingold to hold onto his seat.
Democrats can at best hope to pick up four seats, which would give them 50 seats in the Senate against the GOP’s 50, with Clinton vice-president pick Tim Kaine breaking the tie in the case of a Clinton win.
But election returns did not seem to favor that outcome Tuesday night at either the Senate or the presidential level, where by midnight, Donald Trump’s electoral vote count was higher than Clinton’s.
With about two thirds of the vote in, New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was polling about three points ahead of Democratic challenger Gov. Maggie Hassan. In Missouri, GOP leader Sen. Roy Blunt was also polling significantly ahead of Democratic challenger Jason Kander.
Democrats have a chance to pick up a seat in Pennsylvania, but with 96 percent of ballots counted, Republican Sen. Pat Toomey held a slim lead over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, who had been polling above Toomey in recent days.
Democrats also suffered losses in other Senate races that they had sought to contest more closely during the campaign season.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain was projected to cruise to an easy victory Tuesday night over Democratic challenger Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, despite months of polls showing the two were neck-and-neck.
McCain had broken ahead of Kirkpatrick in the most recent polls, but the race was still considered to be among the more competitive ones in the country.
North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr held onto his Senate seat after coming under a serious challenge from Democrat Deborah Ross, holding an important seat for the GOP as they try to keep Democrats from taking over the Senate majority.
Burr, the Senate’s top Republican on intelligence matters, including cybersecurity, has comfortably held his seat for two terms. Democrats had hoped to oust him in a wave of swing-state victories to take back the Senate majority.
Democrats scored their only official pickup thus far from the GOP when Illinois Democrat Rep. Tammy Duckworth beat out incumbent Republican Sen. Mark Kirk for his Senate seat. Duckworth was a safe bet against Kirk, who had been flagging in the polls against the combat veteran and two-term congresswoman from Chicago.
But Democrats had a setback earlier Tuesday night, when Republican Rep. Todd Young beat out Democrat and former senator Evan Bayh in the Indiana Senate race.
Bayh, who served two terms in the Senate and hails from one of Indiana’s most powerful political families, was recruited as one of the Democrats’ stronger candidates, but ultimately fell short against Young, a three-term congressman from the southern part of the state.
In Florida, Republican Marco Rubio, who ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign earlier this year, was reelected to his Senate seat Tuesday night, keeping it in the GOP’s column as he overcame a challenge from Democrat Rep. Patrick Murphy.
But in the House, Florida Democrat Stephanie Murphy staged an upset against one of the GOP’s veteran members, Republican John Mica, who has held his seat since 1993. Mica’s race in part was fueled by redistricting that led to a defeat for the normally safe incumbent, who ultimately lost by nearly three points.
Democrats also picked up a House seat in Florida from Republican Rep. David Jolly, who lost his reelection battle to former Florida governor Charlie Crist. Crist, who was a Republican and an Independent while governor, joined the Democratic Party in 2012. But Democrats lost the House being vacated by Rep. Patrick Murphy, who lost to Rubio in the Senate race, when Florida Republican Brian Mast beat out Democrat Randy Perkins.
In Virginia, Republicans also overcame a Democratic effort to oust Rep. Barbara Comstock, who easily rode to a nine-point victory over Democratic challenger LuAnn Bennett.
The parties held onto their seats in several other high-profile Senate races. Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, who just a few months ago was on the shortlist of incumbents most in danger of losing their seats, was reelected to a second term in one of the earliest races to be called Tuesday night. And in Iowa, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was projected to win a seventh term over Democrat Patty Judge, despite earlier fears that his tenure was in jeopardy.
In Maryland, Democrat Chris Van Hollen was elected to his first term as a U.S. senator in the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D), while in California, Democrat Kamala Harris was elected to her first term in the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who is expected to replace Reid as the Senate’s top Democrat next year, won a fourth term while Washington Democrat Patty Murray, also a member of the leadership team, won her fifth term. The Senate’s No. 3 Republican, John Thune (S.D.) was reelected to his third.
In Georgia, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson was reelected to a third term in a race against Democratic challenger Jim Barksdale. While Isakson was not in grave danger of losing his seat, it was not clear that he would clear an an-important 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff until the last days of the election.
Elsewhere in the Senate, Vermont’s Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy was reelected to his eighth term, while Alabama Republican Sen. Richard Shelby won his sixth, and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo won his fourth. Republicans Tim Scott of South Carolina and James Lankford of Oklahoma and Democrat Brian Schatz of Hawaii were reelected to their first full terms in the Senate, while Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republicans Rand Paul (Ky.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), John Boozman (Ark.), and John Hoeven (N.D.) each won a second Senate term.
Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet was also reelected to his second full Senate term, while Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden was reelected to his fourth full term.
It is possible that Democrats might knock out one of the GOP’s chief attack dogs against the Obama administration in California’s Darrell Issa, who as the former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was banging the GOP’s Benghazi drum before there was a Benghazi committee. If Issa loses to Democrat Doug Applegate, a former Marine colonel whose camp has ridiculed Issa’s recent attempts to recast himself as a friend of the Obama administration, it could be the Democrats’ biggest House upset of the night.
But in general, House Democrats were frustrated and disappointed at less-than-expected gains.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) blamed FBI Director James B. Comey’s decision late last month to tell Congress about possible new information pertaining to the Clinton email probe. Many Democrats had charged that Comey’s decision was politically motivated, and Pelosi said Tuesday that it had a “definite impact” on Democrats’ efforts to seize more congressional seats.
Some Democratic gains came in urban areas where Trump’s candidacy created negative headwinds: In Illinois’s 10th, Rep. Bob Dold (R) lost to Democratic challenger, former Rep. Brad Schneider, while in New Jersey’s 5th District, Rep. Scott Garrett (R) lost to Democratic challenger Joshua Gottheimer. But in Iowa’s 1st District – another bellwether – Republican Rep. Rod Blum held out against Democratic challenger Monica Vernon.
Other competitive House races are all over the country, from New Hampshire to Nevada.
The race between Republican Frank Guinta and his predecessor, former Democratic congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter, was still too close to call at 1 a.m., while in Nevada, two races were similarly anybody’s guess, as Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy faces state senator and Reid protege Ruben Kihuen (D) in the 4th District, and Republican Danny Tarkanian and Democrat Jacky Rosen battled it out in the 3rd District.
In general, Democrats performed better in Nevada, which boasts a large Latino voting population, than they did nationwide.
Early Wednesday morning returns were also inconclusive in Minnesota’s 2nd District, where Democrats backing Angela Craig tried to link Republican talk radio host Jason Lewis to Trump over his comments about “not-thinking” women and “cultural suicide” by the “white population.” One of them will replace outgoing Rep. John Kline (R).
Mike DeBonis contributed to this report.