After the last of the Senate races is decided, moderates from both parties in Maine, Connecticut, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia, Indiana and Massachusetts will be gone, while another in Montana could also lose.
One new moderate will be in Indiana, where Democrat Joe Donnelly won in a state carried by Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Donnelly replaces moderate veteran Senator Dick Lugar, who had been expected to easily win re-election, before losing a Republican primary to state treasurer Richard Mourdock, a darling of the Tea Party movement.
Mourdock came under withering criticism after saying in a debate that when pregnancy results from rape, it is “something God intended.”
In Missouri, another state won by Romney, Senator Claire McCaskill had been considered the most vulnerable Democratic incumbent, but she defeated another Tea Party-backed candidate, Representative Todd Akin, who won the Republican primary.
Akin was disowned by Republican leaders, including Romney, after he said in August that women’s bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in cases of what he called “legitimate rape.”
Two Democrats who rode a Democratic wave to the Senate in 2006 were elected to second terms — Sherrod Brown in Ohio and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania. In Virginia, Tim Kaine won a costly, close race against former Republican senator and governor George Allen after Democratic Senator Jim Webb decided not to seek re-election.
In Connecticut, Democrat Chris Murphy won the seat being vacated by retiring independent Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000. Republicans had once hoped that the race would be won by Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment, who spent more than US$42 million of her own fortune on the race.
Some favorites of the Tea Party movement did well. Republican Ted Cruz, the son of a Cuban-born father, won the Senate race in Texas, while Deb Fischer won in Nebraska.
In the Southwest, Arizona Representative Jeff Flake won a tough race to capture a seat being vacated by a Republican. In Nevada, Republican Senator Dean Heller turned back a strong challenge from Democrat Shelley Berkley.
Senate races were still undecided early yesterday in two conservative western states, Montana and North Dakota. Republicans hope Representative Denny Rehberg will defeat Senator Jon Tester, who won a close race in 2006. In North Dakota, Republican Rick Berg was the slight favorite to defeat former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp for the seat held by retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican House Speaker John Boehner were likely to remain leaders of their chambers.
In the Senate, Democrats would remain nowhere near the 60-vote majority needed to easily pass legislation under Senate rules.
“Now that the election is over, it’s time to put politics aside and work together to find solutions,” Reid said.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said voters have not endorsed the “failures or excesses of the president’s first term,” but rather given him more time to finish the job.
“To the extent he wants to move to the political center, which is where the work gets done in a divided government, we’ll be there to meet him half way,” McConnell said.