Democrats face all but insurmountable odds in Senate after major losses

Democrats face all but insurmountable odds in Senate after major losses

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Democrats are hoping for a 'blue wave' in the midterm elections, but they are defending more seats than they are challenging. Will they loose seats?
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – Democrats' hopes of taking the Senate all but collapsed Tuesday with major losses projected in Indiana, Tennessee, North Dakota and Texas.

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Indiana Sen. Joe Donnelly, who had himself as an independent thinker in a state by Donald Trump, lost to GOP challenger Mike Brown, according to Associated Press projections.

In Tennessee, Republican Marsha Blackburn captured the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., In what was likely to be a potential pickup for Democrats, the AP forecast.

Meanwhile, ABC, NBC and Fox News projected that Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer would beat the Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.

Democrats would have to end up with seats with endangered Democrats such as Donnelly and Heitkamp and so score upset wins in order to flip control of the Senate where Republicans have a 51-49 majority.

But Fox, ABC and NBC projected Texas Sen. Ted Cruz wants to survive a challenge from Democrat Beto O'Rourke.

And in Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was narrowly behind GOP Gov. Rick Scott with a significant share of precincts reporting.

Donnelly, one of five Democrats who struggled to survive. He lost to Braun after Trump.

Braun told supporters at this victory rally. The businessman and former state house member had cast himself as a political outsider in the mold of Trump.

Trump had dubbed Donnelly "Sleepin 'Joe."

Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Joyce bragged Donnelly that "we really want to stick this time: former Senator Donnelly."

Although House Democrats headed into Tuesday with the wind at their backs, Senate Republicans had hopes of adding to their slim 51-49 majority.

The reason? Democrats are defending 26 of the 35 seats on the ballot, including 10 in states won by Donald Trump.

"It's the worst map for one party ever," wrote veteran political handicapper Stuart Rothenberg.

Besides Donnelly and Heitkamp, ​​the other Democrats running in top Trump states are Jon Tester of Montana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who survived his challenge.

The last time they were on the ballot, the nation was not as divided along the lines and voters were more willing to split their tickets.

"People are voting in a more parliamentary way," said Charlie Cook, head of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

The incumbents focused on nonpartisan local issues – as well as helping veterans – while strongly emphasizing health care, issue with a lot of crossover appeal, especially for female voters. They are happy with him and stand up for him when they do not.

Red-State Democrats have had the difficult task of keeping their base enthused about their re-election bids while attracting enough of the Republicans they need to carry their states.

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Aftermath voted for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the liberal group of MoveOn.org did not include West Virginia in its voter mobilization campaign.

MoveOn's Nick Berning said: "We just felt like we could not give good faith to our members.

Trump focused his final campaign on Senate contests.

"I think I made a big difference," the president said outside the White House on Sunday before flying to more states. "I think I made a difference of five or six or seven."

Wisconsin, Pennsylvania or Michigan – states Trump has narrowly carried but where the Democratic incumbents have made easier re-election than expected.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, called them "snap-back" states. Trump's small 2016 Margin is there many voters "Who has a party?"

"Given the first opportunity, they reassert their old selves," he said.

Conversely, the long-standing partisan leanings of Texas are challenged by O'Rourke's social media-fueled campaign against Cruz. In heavily blue New Jersey, Sen. Bob Menendez, who survived a trial on bribery and other corruption charges.

Democrats hoped to offset any losses with pickups in Tennessee and Arizona, states where the Republican incumbent failed to seek re-election after being critical of Trump.

In Nevada, where Sen. Dean Heller is the only Republican senator facing re-election in a state Trump lost, Heller has both embraced Trump and tried to create some distance.

Heller said he was "very, very good" while the rest has been a "reality TV show."

Chris Van Hollen, head of the Senate Democrats campaign, emphasized that his party is in a lot better shape than anyone would've predicted 18 months ago when Republicans thought they could not afford to have a filibuster-proof majority.

"No one's talking about that right now," Van Hollen said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Cook, the nonpartisan handicapper, said it's possible for Democrats to pick up a Senate seat or two. But the most likely outcome, he predicted on the Friday before the election, is that Republicans at least hold steady, if not gain one or two Senate seats, while losing the House.

The Senate does not always move in the same direction as the House in an election. In 1970, for example, Republicans gave up 10 seats in the House while gaining one in the Senate.

But a party has never lost control of the House while increasing power in the Senate, according to Eric Ostermeier, author of the Smart Politics blog run by the University of Minnesota.

"This is unusual because the odds are so heavily stacked in favor of the party that is actually the less popular party," Sabato said. "The Democrats were pretty much behind the eight ball in the Senate from the beginning."

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