Three GOP Senate seats switch, Democrats keep control

Republicans have already lost three of the 10 GOP-held U.S. Senate seats at stake in the 2012 election, leaving Democrats poised to maintain their majority in Congress’ upper chamber — a goal that seemed almost impossible just a year ago.

Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren unseated Republican Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts.  U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated Tea Party-backed Republican Richard Mourdock in Indiana.  And former Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent likely to caucus with the Democrats, captured the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

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“It is a great night for Senate Democrats and a repudiation of stalemate in Washington, D.C.,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a sure bet to win reelection when voting closes in Washington.

“This is about moving ahead and getting things done:  I think, for instance, on consumer protection and Wall Street reform.  Elizabeth Warren is great on these issues,” added Cantwell, who worked with Warren on Wall Street reform legislation.

At mid-evening, by contrast, Democrats had lost only one of 23 seats they were defending, in Nebraska.  The contest to succeed North Dakota’s retiring Sen. Kent Conrad remained too close to call.

The Tea Party appears to have scalded the Republicans much as it did in 2010.  Mourdoch defeated longtime GOP moderate Sen. Dick Lugar in the spring primary.  Two weeks ago, during a debate, he described a pregnancy caused by a rape as “that horrible situation of rape, that it (the fetus) is something that God intended to happen.”

Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, once a likely loser, cruised to victory after opponent GOP Rep. Todd Akin talked about how women’s bodies have the means to prevent pregnancy when they are the victims of what he called “legitimate rape.”

In three states carried by Mitt Romney — Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia — Democrats won election to the Senate. Two races for the seats of retiring Democratic senators, in Virginia and Wisconsin, were close, but Democrats won both.   Rep. Tammy Baldwin won in Wisconsin, to become the first open lesbian in the Senate.  And former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, pulled ahead in late returns and defeated a fellow former governor, George Allen.

Such endangered Democratic Senators as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, hit with $12 million in negative advertising by Republican “SuperPACs” cruised to reelection.  Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, easily dispatched Republican Rep. Connie Mack IV in another seat the Republicans had hoped to pick up.

Former World Wrestling Federation President Linda McMahon spent $100 million of her own money on Connecticut Senate bids in 2012 and again this year.  But Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy won the seat being vacated by Rep. Joe Lieberman, leaving McMahon as a big monetary and electoral loser.


Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., emerges as one of the night’s big winners although she was not on the ballot.  Murray was pressured into taking on the thankless job of chairing the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee last year, and recruited and raised money for several of Tuesday’s winners.

Seatmate Cantwell cruised to her third term..

Progressive groups were jubilant.  The League of Conservation Voters spent $1.1 million to support Warren in Massachusetts.  “Elizabeth Warren’s victory shows the politics of climate change are shifting all across the country,” said LCV president Gene Karpinski.

Democrats held a 51-47 advantage in the past Congress, with two independent senators (Lieberman and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont) caucusing with the Democrats.