Despite hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of spending in races across the country, the political composition of Congress will look much the same next year as it does now, CBS News projects, with Democrats holding onto a majority in the Senate and Republicans retaining power in the House of Representatives.
Republicans were unable to pick up the four seats they needed to overtake Democrats’ slim majority in the Senate, while Democrats fell short of the 25 House seats they needed to flip control.
A year ago, Republicans were reasonably hopeful of achieving their goal in the Senate: Democrats needed to defend 23 Senate seats this cycle, including six open seats, while the GOP had to defend only 10. But in the final days of the campaign season, amid a handful of unforced errors by Republican Senate candidates, it started to look increasingly out of reach.
In Missouri, Republican candidate Todd Akin saw his prospects of defeating incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill fall dramatically after suggesting that pregnancies do not result from what he described, controversially, as “legitimate” rapes.
Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, a Tea Party-backed Republican who defeated longtime moderate Republican Senator Richard Lugar in the primary, met a similar fate: After suggesting that pregnancies resulting from rape were “something that God intended to happen,” an already-close race tilted in conservative Democrat Joe Donnelly’s favor.
Meanwhile, a number of Democratic Senate candidates seemed to benefit from the president’s win at the top of the ticket: In Massachusetts, consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren unseated incumbent Republican Scott Brown; in Virginia, former Democratic governor Tim Kaine bested former Republican governor and senator George Allen; Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown beat Republican Josh Mandel in Ohio, and in Wisconsin, Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin defeated former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson to become the first openly gay woman ever to be elected to the United States Senate.
The close Senate contests were not swept by Democrats, however: Republican Deb Fischer emerged ahead of Democrat Bob Kerrey in Nebraska, and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake bested Democrat Richard Carmona. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, meanwhile, was re-elected to his Wisconsin House seat even while losing the vice presidency.
In the House, Democrat Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican Rep. Joe Walsh in the contest for Illinois’ 8th congressional district, and Democratic incumbent Rep. John Tierney, of Massachusetts’ 6th District, narrowly fended off a challenge from Republican Richard Tisei. And the chamber will welcome a record number of Latino Representatives next year: At least 28 Hispanics will be inaugurated into the House next year, up from the 27 currently serving.
As of early Wednesday morning, Republican incumbents Michele Bachmann, the former presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman, and Florida’s Allen West remained locked in razor-close races. Republican congressional hopeful Mia Love, too, continued to battle it out with Democrat Jim Matheson for a win in Utah’s 4th district.
Facing a similar post-election partisan breakdown and a number of unresolved congressional matters, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urged unity and cooperation among members in the coming months.
“Now that the election is over, it’s time to put politics aside, and work together to find solutions. The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly rejected by the American people. Now, they are looking to us for solutions,” he said in a statement. “We have big challenges facing us in the months ahead. Democrats and Republicans must come together, and show that we are up to the challenge.”
Indeed, when Congress reconvenes next week, members will face the task of dealing with an impending “fiscal cliff”: The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of the year and, barring congressional action, $1.2 trillion worth of automatic cuts to defense and non-defense programs will go into effect in January. Economists say the sudden jolt in fiscal spending and taxes will have a devastating impact on the economy.