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GOP Takes House, Dems Keep Senate

GOP Takes House, Dems Keep Senate

By Erin McPike - November 3, 2010


BELLEVUE, Wash. - Democrats narrowly retained control of the Senate after Tuesday's elections, keeping at least 51 seats. The outcome of races out West has yet to be determined, including those in Alaska, Colorado and Washington.

Control of the House flipped decisively to Republicans, who picked up at least 59 seats on Tuesday. But since the 1930s, control of the House has not flipped without control of the Senate also shifting. The results may say a lot about how the 2012 elections will unfold.

As Democrats prepared for the 2008 presidential election, they poured money into states out West, hoping that it would be the new battleground. And in this year's midterms, Democrats performed better out West than they did in reliably blue states like Pennsylvania and those in the Midwest.

Majority Leader Harry Reid won his difficult re-election in Nevada decisively over tea party-backed Republican Sharron Angle by reaching the difficult threshold of 50 percent to her 45 percent. Nevada, which will gain seats - and electoral votes - next year due to population gains since the last U.S. Census, was a state President Obama flipped in 2008. GOP consultants concede the party there hasn't recovered well.

California has not been among the Western battlegrounds before, but the Senate race was competitive this year. It has been called by most major news organizations for Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, although Republican Carly Fiorina has yet to concede.

Colorado's Senate race remains close enough for a recount, with 70 percent of precincts reporting and Republican Ken Buck leading Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet 47.5 percent to 47 percent. But outlying areas may favor Bennet, including Boulder, where the University of Colorado is located.

Democrats also held onto a few competitive House districts in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, which may be reflective of the region's changing demographics.

Whether the Democrats' Senate leadership team will remain the same depends on the outcome of the Washington Senate race between fourth-ranking Democrat Patty Murray and Republican Dino Rossi.

As of early Wednesday morning, Murray was leading Rossi 51 percent to 49 percent with 61 percent of precincts reporting.

Both campaigns claimed that the outlying areas contained more votes for their candidate.

Addressing supporters at the Bellevue Hilton on Tuesday night, Rossi projected a bit less confidence than he had on the final day of campaigning.

He hailed the "course correction" that swept the country, with Republicans thumping Democrats in House races, giving the GOP control of the lower chamber.

"We don't know yet whether the course correction will hit Washington State," he said.

The Rossi campaign issued a memo noting that at least 500,000 ballots are still left to process, and 21.6 percent of the remaining ballots come from Rossi's stronghold of Spokane County, where he leads with more than 50 percent of the vote.

The Murray campaign issued a similar memo, noting that at least 350,000 ballots have yet to be counted in King County, where Murray is leading Rossi 62 percent to 38 percent.

The course correction Rossi referred to, however, did hit in Illinois, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin - big states Obama won decisively in 2008. Republican Rep. Mark Kirk and Pennsylvania former Rep. Pat Toomey eked out narrow victories over Democratic state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, respectively. Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold fell to Republican Ron Johnson by seven points.

Governor's mansions in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin flipped more decisively to Republicans there than did the Senate races, but the Illinois governor's race remains too close to call.

In other competitive Senate races where both parties spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars throughout the election cycle, Democratic Senate candidates barely broke 40 percent of the vote.

In open Senate races in perpetual swing states like Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio, Democrats Robin Carnahan, Paul Hodes and Lee Fisher received 41 percent, 37 percent and 39 percent of their states' votes, respectively.

Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln garnered just 38 percent of the vote in her loss to Republican Rep. John Boozman. Indiana Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth received 40 percent to former Republican Sen. Dan Coats' 55 percent. Louisiana Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon received 38 percent of the vote to GOP Sen. David Vitter's 57 percent.

And in the three-way race in Florida, Democratic Rep. Kendrick Meek received 20 percent of the vote, and Gov. Charlie Crist, now an independent, received 30 percent of the vote.

Alaska won't provide a cushion for Democrats, as Scott McAdams is officially in third place with just a quarter of the vote. Thirty-nine percent of the votes were cast for a write-in candidate, meaning Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski may still prevail over Republican nominee Joe Miller, who is carrying 36 percent of the vote with 59 percent of precincts reporting.

The outcome may not be known until later this month.

Erin McPike is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at emcpike@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPike.

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