It’s a Wave: Republicans Take US Senate, Build Majority in House, Grab Governorships
by Josh Siegel and Melissa Quinn, Heritage Foundation Daily Signal, November 4, 2014
It was a GOP wave.
In a near-sweep of yesterday’s midterm elections, Republicans shifted the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, gaining at least seven seats, widened their majority in the House by at least 11 seats and defeated Democrats in 24 governor’s races.
“We are headed to Washington and we are going to make ’em squeal,” a triumphant Joni Ernst, Iowa’s newly elected Republican senator, told cheering supporters in West Des Moines.
>>> As of Wednesday morning, the Associated Press has yet to call Senate races in Alaska and Virginia. Stay tuned to The Daily Signal for updates.
President Obama had said his policies were on the ballot, even if he wasn’t, and in those terms it was difficult not to see the results as a repudiation by voters of an unpopular president and his Democratic allies.
“Americans … have risen up and retired Harry Reid as [Senate] majority leader,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said on Fox News at 20 minutes past midnight.
Cruz added: “Now that we have won the election it is incumbent on Republicans to stand up and lead. … Americans don’t necessarily trust Republicans; they’ve given us another chance.”
Votes still were being counted in Virginia and Alaska, but Republicans will take control of the Senate after netting seats in Iowa, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, Colorado, North Carolina and Arkansas.
“Americans … have risen up and retired Harry Reid as [Senate] majority leader,” says @SenTedCruz.
The race in Virginia pitting Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Warner against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie remained unexpectedly tight. The contest had yet to be called by the Associated Press as Warner clung to a 12,000-vote lead out of more than 2.1 million cast.
In Alaska, with all precincts reporting, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Begich trailed Republican challenger Dan Sullivan by 5 points.
Shortly before midnight, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada congratulated current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, saying McConnell would succeed him when Republicans regain control of the Senate in January for the first time in eight years.
“I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any different than he did this morning,” McConnell said hours earlier, after winning his own race. “He knows I won’t either.”
Just before midnight, House Speaker John Boehner called on his new colleagues in the Republican-controlled House and Senate to work together to build a stronger economy. The Ohio Republican said in a prepared statement:
We are humbled by the responsibility the American people have placed with us, but this is not a time for celebration. It’s time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy.
Here’s how the results kept flowing into the wee hours (bold denotes winner):
Updated 6:38 a.m. In Alaska and Virginia, races for U.S. Senate remain too close to call.
1:48 a.m. In Maine, Republican Paul LePage won re-election in the governor’s race.
1:15 a.m. Democrat David Ige won Hawaii’s governorship.
12:32 a.m. Voters in Idaho re-elected Gov. Butch Otter, a Republican.
“The American people have put their trust in the Republican Party,” says RNC Chairman @Reince.
12:02 a.m. In the Maryland governor’s race, Republican Larry Hogan came from behind to defeat Democrat Anthony Brown, the incumbent lieutenant governor. It was a major upset in heavily Democratic Maryland.
In Vermont, neither Democrat Peter Shumlin nor Republican Scott Milne won a majority of the vote. The next governor will be decided by the state legislature.
Oregon voters elected Democrat John Kitzhaber as their next governor. In Kansas, Democrat Paul Davis conceded to incumbent Gov. Sam Brownback, who had been thought to be in grave danger after alienating centrist Republicans.
11:55 p.m. In brief remarks, Republican challenger Scott Brown conceded the U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire to incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen.
11:47 p.m. Billed as a “huge win” for Republicans, Charlie Baker beat Democrat Martha Coakley in the race for the Massachusetts governorship.
11:33 p.m. Republican Joni Ernst defeated Democrat Bruce Braley to win Iowa’s open U.S. Senate seat, netting Republicans a seventh Senate seat — one more than needed to control the upper chamber.
McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who won re-election earlier tonight, is slated to take over as Senate majority leader in January.
“The American people have put their trust in the Republican Party,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said.
“Well, Iowa, we did it! We did it!” Ernst said in her victory speech. “It’s a long way from Red Oak to Washington, from the biscuit line at Hardee’s to the United States Senate. But thanks to all of you, we are heading to Washington. And we are going to make ’em squeal.”
It was a crowd-pleasing reference to one of the Iraq War veteran’s earliest attention-getting campaign ads.
11:32 p.m. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, won re-election.
11:21 p.m. Netting the GOP its sixth seat to gain control of the Senate, Republican Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House, ousted incumbent Democrat Kay Hagan in North Carolina.
Republican Jim Risch won the Senate race in Idaho and Democrat Tom Udall won in New Mexico.
Nathan Deal won re-election in the Georgia governor’s race, and Republican Bruce Rauner ousted Democrat Pat Quinn to become governor of Illinois.
11:10 p.m. The Republican Party was one short of the Senate majority with the race in Kansas called for incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts. Once seen as doomed to defeat, Roberts bested Independent Greg Orman.
10:56 p.m. Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, running against incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, was not conceding.
Several outlets, including the Associated Press, called the race for Shaheen. However, Brown’s campaign held on as results continued to come in.
Political analysts pointed to former Sen. Bob Smith, who prematurely was reported to have lost his Senate election.
Two Democratic incumbents, Sens. Jeff Merkley and Brian Schatz, won re-election in Oregon and Hawaii, respectively.
In gubernatorial races, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, both were victorious, as was Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican.
10:41 p.m. In Georgia’s Senate race, Republican David Perdue defeated Democrat Michelle Nunn and Libertarian Amanda Swafford with a strong 55 percent of the vote. By pulling in more than 50 percent, Perdue skirted a January runoff election.
Analysts previously warned the balance of power in the Senate could rest on the Georgia race.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, won re-election, and Republican Doug Ducey will become the new governor of Arizona.
10:26 p.m. Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott beat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, who was a Republican when he was governor from 2007 to 2011.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker again escaped defeat after surviving a recall election, beating Democrat Mary Burke.
10:04 p.m. Republicans netted their fifth Senate seat of six needed to take control with a win in Montana from Steven Daines over Democrat Amanda Curtis.
Republicans also were declared winners in 12 governors races: Greg Abbott in Texas, Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, Robert Bentley in Alabama, Nikki Haley in South Carolina, Bill Haslam in Tennessee,Pete Ricketts in Nebraska, Dennis Daugaard in South Dakota, John Kasichin Ohio, Matt Mead in Wyoming, Susana Martinez in New Mexico and Terry Branstad in Iowa.
Democrats, meanwhile, had wins in governor’s races with Tom Wolf in Pennsylvania, who ousted Republican incumbent Tom Corbett, Andrew Cuomo in New York, Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire and Gina Raimondo in Rhode Island.
9:54 p.m. In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner defeated incumbent Democrat Mark Udall, for the GOP’s fourth net seat in the Senate.
9:45 p.m. Democrat Gwen Graham won the House race for Florida’s 2nd District, toppling incumbent Republican Steve Southerland.
9:42 p.m. Neither Republican candidate Bill Cassidy nor Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu won 50 percent of the vote in Louisiana’s Senate race. Cassidy and Landrieu will face off in a runoff election Dec. 6. The race was billed as one of the biggest clashes of the midterms.
Speaking of Senate gains for Republicans in West Virginia and Arkansas, and McConnell’s win in Kentucky, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said the GOP’s victories can be attributed to Americans seeing the effects of “incompetent big government.”
“We know we’re going to have a good night,” Ryan told Fox News, adding:
I think what’s happening is it’s not just the incompetence of the Obama administration that voters are responding to, it’s the incompetence of big government.
9:22 p.m. Ben Sasse won the Senate seat held by fellow Republican Mike Johanns in Nebraska, beating Democrat Dave Domina. Johanns did not seek re-election.
“I commit to be about the big challenges before us—for we do not have time now to be distracted by the small issues,” Sasse told supporters.
In New Hampshire, incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen beat Republican challenger Scott Brown, 52 percent to 48 percent in partial returns, holding the state for Democrats. The New Hampshire race was one of the hottest of the election cycle, as Brown steadily had been gaining ground on the popular incumbent.
Sen. Mike Enzi, the Republican incumbent, beat Democrat Charlie Hardy in Wyoming.
So far, Republicans have won a total of 15 seats, giving them a total of 45 in the Senate. Democrats have won seven, with 41 seats total.
9:07 p.m. South Dakota Republican Mike Rounds beat Democrat Rick Weiland and Independent Larry Pressler, marking the third net gain for the GOP in the Senate.
The Associated Press called races for incumbent Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken in Minnesota.
Democrat Gary Peters beat Republican Terri Lynn Land in Michigan’s Senate race. Peters maintained a 12-point lead over Land in the days before the election.
8:32 p.m. In the second Senate seat of the night gained for Republicans, Tom Cotton ousted incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Republicans had to win another four seats to become the majority party in the Senate.
In Delaware, Democratic incumbent Chris Coons was re-elected to the Senate.
8:28 p.m. “I work hard to bring your concerns to Washington and I will not let up,” a victorious Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told supporters in Louisville, wife Elaine Chao at his side. Government, he said, has been “too busy imposing its view of the world on people who don’t share that view.”
McConnell said later to cheers:
I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any different than he did this morning. He knows I won’t either.
“It turns out Hillary Clinton doesn’t have many coattails in Kentucky,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said shortly afterward of McConnell’s win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, in an interview with Fox News.
8:18 p.m. Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Susan Collins of Maine, Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee all won re-election in their respective Senate races.
Also in Oklahoma, Rep. James Lankford won the seat of retiring Sen. Tom Coburn, also a Republican.
Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Dick Durbin of Illinois also will return to the Senate.
7:31 p.m. Republican Shelley Moore Capito defeated Democrat Natalie Tennant in West Virginia. She becomes the first Republican woman elected to represent the state in the Senate.
This was the first gain for the GOP in the Senate. Republicans needed to net five more seats to shift the balance of power.
7:02 p.m. The first races of the 2014 midterm elections were called. In Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell defeated Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes to keep his Senate seat. If Republicans take control of the Senate, McConnell is likely to become majority leader.
In South Carolina, Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham, both Republicans, won re-election. Scott won election in his own right after being appointed as a congressman two years ago to fill the term of retiring Sen. Jim DeMint, who had retired to become president of The Heritage Foundation.
6 p.m. Polls remained open from Florida to Alaska. Now, for candidates, their staffs and volunteers, the waiting game begins for Election Day 2014. And for the future of the U.S. Senate, the balance of power could well flip as the hot races are called.
After seven years with Harry Reid at the helm and Democrats in control of the Senate, Republicans were eagerly looking to the midterm election results to signal they will take over the upper chamber.
Democrats, worried about Obama’s fast-fading popularity, hoped to hold on to as many seats as they could.
Governor’s races across the nation also drew attention as challengers pressed vulnerable incumbents.
Of 36 gubernatorial races, six were deemed toss-ups by more than one prominent prognosticator: Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and Maine.
To win the Senate, Republicans had to net six seats. Top forecasters predict the GOP has the upper hand: The New York Times, The Washington Post and Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight all say Republicans have at least a 75 percent chance of winning the Senate back for the first time since 2006.
At least nine states—Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina—were dubbed the races to watch.
And Senate matchups in Georgia and Kansas tightened as Election Day drew closer, throwing more states into play.
The most recent polls showed surges by Republicans Tom Cotton, Cory Gardner and Mitch McConnell in Arkansas, Colorado and Kentucky, respectively. In Michigan, however, Democrat Gary Peters maintained a 12-point lead over Republican challenger Terri Lynn Land.
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In Alaska, Iowa, New Hampshire and North Carolina, races remained tight. Strategists, though, warned that control of the Senate could come down to Georgia, where the three-candidate race will go into a January runoff election if no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the vote.
A similar situation could play out in Louisiana, where Bayou State residents voted in an open primary today. If none of the nine candidates on the ballot wins 50 percent, the top two go to a runoff in December.
Republicans were hopeful they not only would take back the Senate but increase the size of their majority in the House.
“We are very optimistic,” Raffi Williams, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, told The Daily Signal:
We think we will get the six seats in the Senate we need and more. In the House, we are confident we are going to increase our majority. If all goes like we think it will, tonight will be very good for the GOP.
The Democratic National Committee did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment.
In the House, the National Republican Congressional Committee, led by Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, spearheaded an effort called “Drive to 245.” The goal: for Republicans to pick up 11 seats.
Should Republicans do that, it would give the party its largest House majority since Harry Truman’s presidency.
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Both The Washington Post and Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics predicted Republicans would win 243 seats, up from 233.
Of the more than 700 Republican candidates running for the House, the GOP could make history with Elise Stefanik, who is running in New York’s 21st District. If she wins — and Stefanik is the favorite against Democrat Aaron Woolf — she will become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
Democrats running for both the House and the Senate distanced themselves from President Obama as his approval ratings hit all-time lows. Few major Democratic candidates invited the president to join them on the campaign trail, and Obama kept his fundraising to events for party organizations such as the Democratic National Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
Republicans sought to capitalize on the president’s low approval ratings. They tied their Democratic opponents to Obama and his policies, especially in states with tight races such as North Carolina and New Hampshire where Democratic incumbents were threatened.
But the White House worked to downplay the president’s influence on, or role as an issue in, the elections. Speaking about the midterms at Northwestern University last month, however, Obama told the crowd that though his name isn’t on the ballot, his policies are.
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“I am not on the ballot this fall,” Obama said. “Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: These policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said yesterday that the president wouldn’t change his leadership style in the wake of a big Republican win. Earnest told reporters:
The electorate is different this time than it is in a traditional presidential election. That will be part of the calculation that’s made as we consider what sort of conclusion should be drawn appropriately from the election. … Any analysis that you do is different than the analysis that you would do on a true national election.”
Among the 36 governor’s races, Geoff Skelley, associate editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, was among those identifying the true toss-up states as Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois and Maine.
In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback was in trouble after creating a fissure between the state’s conservative and centrist Republicans. The incumbent loosened gun laws and tightened abortion restrictions, angering more liberal Republicans.
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Brownback faced Democrat Paul Davis, minority leader of the Kansas House of Representatives, and was down one point.
Indeed, while Republicans were poised to win the Senate and tighten their grip on the House, they may not fare as well in the governor’s races.
“It seems like there’s a better chance that Democrats will gain a couple governorships than Republicans will,” Skelley told The Daily Signal, adding:
The fact Democrats may end up having the governor contests as a silver lining tonight suggests that the gubernatorial races don’t mirror congressional races — the GOP may see some of its incumbents elected in 2010 defeated, though it may also win a couple open seats.
Despite such forecasts, Republicans swept state legislatures in the 2010 midterm elections and hoped to make even more gains this year.
Republicans went into this year’s elections in complete control of 23 state governments. Democrats held that power in 13.
This year, more than 6,000 legislative races are on the ballot across 46 states. Winning just a few seats could give Republicans or Democrats the opportunity to take over a legislative chamber, either upsetting single-party control or gaining it.
For the GOP, wins in the Iowa and Arkansas state legislatures would shift the power strictly to Republicans. Wins in Colorado and Minnesota would break Democrats’ stranglehold.
Democrats, meanwhile, looked to the gubernatorial races in Wisconsin, Kansas and Michigan as places to regain some power in GOP-held state capitals.
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Ken McIntyre, news director of The Daily Signal, contributed to this report.