WASHINGTON: Democrats appeared to retain control of the Senate on Tuesday while Republicans will continue to rule the House of Representatives, after congressional elections that featured several high-profile races.
Television networks projected that House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester, would continue to wield the speaker’s gavel with a majority that might grow once the evening ended. The House results represented a bitter setback for Democrats, who’d hoped to at least make a dent in the Republican majority.
In the Senate, Democrats swiped Republican-held seats in Indiana and Massachusetts and kept a once vulnerable seat in Missouri.
Republican candidates’ clumsy comments on rape and abortion proved to be the party’s undoing in two races. The Democratic gains meant the GOP had to run the table in remaining open Senate seats in Virginia, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Nebraska and New Mexico, but they trailed in three.
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly edged out tea party-backed Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock in a race rocked by the Republican candidate’s awkward remark that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended.”
Mourdock also upset some Indiana voters for his decision to sue to stop the federal auto bailout of Chrysler, which means jobs building transmissions to thousands in Kokomo. And he alienated some in his own party with his divisive win over six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the May GOP primary. Lugar refused to campaign for him.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren knocked out Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who had stunned the political world in January 2010 when he won the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s seat. The strong Democratic tilt in the state and President Barack Obama’s easy win over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts helped the consumer advocate in her bid.
The race was one of the most expensive in the country — $68 million — even though both candidates agreed to bar outside spending.
In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill was considered the most vulnerable incumbent, but Republican Rep. Todd Akin severely damaged his candidacy in August when he said women’s bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in instances of “legitimate rape.” GOP leaders, including Romney, called on him to abandon the race. Akin stayed in.
In the House, Republicans drove toward renewed control as Democrats failed to make any significant inroads into the GOP’s delegations from the East, South and Midwest.
With more than half of the 435 House races called by the Associated Press, Republicans had won 151 seats and were leading in 53 more. Democrats had taken 89 districts and led in 56 others.
There were another 20 seats in Western states where Republican incumbents were not facing serious challenges. A party needs 218 seats to control the House.
In an Election Day that was producing little net change in the parties’ numbers overall, Republicans ousted one Democrat from Kentucky and another from North Carolina. They also picked up an open Democratic seat in both North Carolina and Oklahoma.
Even before renewed GOP control was clinched, Speaker Boehner — re-elected to his seat without opposition — claimed victory and laid down a marker for upcoming battles in Congress.
“The American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican majority,” he said at a gathering of Republicans in Washington. “The American people also made clear there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”
One of the top fights when Congress returns for a postelection session this month will be over the looming expiration of income tax cuts first enacted a decade ago under President George W. Bush. Republicans want to renew them all, while President Barack Obama wants the cuts to expire for the highest-earning Americans.
The combination of open seats and incumbent losses will bring in a huge freshman class, perhaps larger than the 93-member contingent in 2010.
The Associated Press and McClatchy News contributed to this report.