GOP has taken control of the Senate
WASHINGTON (CNN) — [Breaking news update, posted at 11:36 p.m. ET]
Republicans have taken control of the Senate by picking up at least six seats, according to a CNN projection. Their victory means that Republicans will control both chambers of Congress during President Barack Obama’s final two years in office.
[Previous story, posted at 11:30 p.m. ET]
Republicans are one seat away from claiming a Senate majority that would give the party full control of Capitol Hill, according to a CNN projection.
So far on Tuesday night, Republicans picked up Democratic-held seats in Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas and West Virginia. CNN also projects Republicans will maintain their grip on the House of Representatives.
The race is now boiling down to a tense duel over the Senate seats in Iowa, Alaska, North Carolina and — in a major surprise — Virginia.
President Barack Obama, who has dragged down vulnerable Democrats with his tarnished approval ratings, now faces the strong prospect of a unified Republican opposition on Capitol Hill for the rest of his administration. He will make a public statement on Wednesday and host bipartisan leaders on Friday.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, swiftly dispatched challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in his re-election race Tuesday. CNN projected the result as soon as polls were closed in Kentucky, in a dramatic early start to what could be a long Election Night.
“For too long, this administration has tried to tell the American people what is good for them and then blame somebody else when their policies didn’t work out,” McConnell said in a victory speech.
Republicans were able to breathe a sigh of relief after the party kept control of Senate seats in Georgia and Kansas. In Georgia, Republican David Perdue handily beat Democrat Michelle Nunn, despite reams of polling that suggested the race was tight. And Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts survived a spirited challenge from Independent Greg Orman.
But in one positive moment for Democrats on a testing night, New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen managed to hold on to her seat, despite a strong challenge from Republican Scott Brown.
North Carolina, Virginia
Attention is quickly shifting to tight Senate races in North Carolina and Virginia.
Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has a slim lead over Republican challenger Thom Tillis. A Hagan win, after the most expensive Senate race in history, would boost Democrats in a state shaping up as a genuine battleground in 2016.
But in Virginia, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Warner is having a tougher ride than expected against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in a state Democrats had thought was reliably theirs after Obama won it twice.
The Democratic loss in Colorado, where Sen. Mark Udall went down to Republican Cory Gardner, was particularly significant.
The party had believed that Colorado’s legions of young people, women and Hispanic voters had turned the state solidly blue. Udall’s loss also challenges Obama’s suggestion earlier Tuesday that Democrats only lost because they faced an almost impossible map of Senate re-election races in solid Republican territory.
Tension in Florida
Meanwhile in Florida, tension is building around the tightly contested governor’s race. A judge denied a request from Democrat Charlie Crist to extend voting in Broward County by two hours because of several breakdowns in voting systems, according to a spokesperson for the Florida secretary of state.
Crist is seeking to unseat Republican Rick Scott in one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country.
In Virginia, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Warner is having a tougher ride than expected against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in a state Democrats had thought was reliably theirs after Obama won it twice.
No one had believed going into the election that the state would be in play.
In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan has a slim lead over Republican challenger Thom Tillis. A Hagan win, after the most expensive Senate race in history, would boost Democrats in a state shaping up as a genuine battleground in 2016.
Problems at the polls
There were some hiccups across the country as Americans went to the polls.
Some people in Alaska were voting by flashlight after a power outage and those in Maine had to cope with a winter storm that prompted a state of emergency. In Georgia, home to a competitive Senate and governor’s race, a state website listing polling locations went down, though the secretary of state said there weren’t any voter irregularities.
In North Carolina, where Hagan is in a tight race against challenger Tillis, long lines were reported in Mecklenburg County, which includes Charlotte.
“There are lines all over the place,” said Kristin Mavromatis with the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. “Not quite as long as the line at the Cheesecake Factory, but there are lines.”
There could be many tension-packed hours before the fate of the Senate is decided. In Alaska, for example, where Democratic Sen. Mark Begich is in a tight race, polls will not close until 1 a.m. on the East Coast.
Runoff elections, meanwhile, will be needed in Louisiana, according to a CNN projection, after neither Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu or GOP challenger Bill Cassidy reached the 50% threshold to win outright.
The race in Iowa between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley will be tight. Still, recent polls suggested Ernst has a slight lead. Ernst was in her hotel room Tuesday evening working on a victory speech, according to a senior aide.
Several key governor’s races also were being decided.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Tom Wolf unseated Republican Gov. Tom Corbett in a marquee race, CNN projected. In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback is in danger of losing amid a backlash against his hard-core conservatism. And liberal Massachusetts could elect a Republican governor.