Republicans didn’t just win the White House on Election Day. They also held onto both the House and the Senate.
Retaining control of the House was expected, but Democrats had hoped to regain control of the Senate with strong showings in a dozen hotly contested races. They needed a five-seat net gain, but failed in all but one of them. It was not the Democrats’ night.
Democrats poured a lot of energy and resources into their quest to take back the Senate, which looked like a reasonable possibility as of Tuesday morning. Their strategy relied on capitalizing on familiarity and name recognition in an election replete with populist fervor. They nominated known quantities like former Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin and New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan in races against incumbents. But that strategy failed the Democrats almost everywhere.
In Wisconsin, Feingold lost to Republican Sen. Ron Johnson 51 percent to 46 percent in a race that was supposed to be all but a sure thing for Democrats. In Indiana, Republican Rep. Todd Young won with 52 percent of the vote against former Democratic senator Evan Bayh, despite polls showing Bayh to be the favorite. In Ohio’s toss-up senate race, incumbent Sen. Rob Portman cruised to an easy victory with nearly 60 percent of the vote against his rival, Ted Strickland.
The one seat that flipped from red to blue was in Illinois, where Tammy Duckworth pushed out Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. But as the night wore on, it became increasingly clear Illinois was the exception, not the rule.
Early Wednesday morning, the key battleground races in Missouri and New Hampshire still hadn’t been called but were leaning Republican. The GOP now holds 49 Senate seats compared to Democrats’ 46. Alaska and Louisiana have not formally been called but are almost certain to go to their Republican incumbents. Democrats would need to win all of the remaining battleground states that Republicans currently hold in order to have a 50-50 tie. It’s all but impossible.
New Hampshire was one of the most important Senate races in the country. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte has been fighting for her life against Hassan. As of 1 a.m., the race was still a tossup, with the candidates separated by just a few thousand votes.
The Democrats’ stunning defeat means that Republicans will have close to free reign in Washington for at least the next two years. One of the first things Republicans will likely go after is the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature piece of legislation. Less than three weeks before Election Day, the government announced that health care premiums were going to go up next year, which intensified Republicans’ vow to destroy it. The House already has a plan for how to do that.
Republicans will also likely be poised to approve any Trump Supreme Court nominees. For almost a year, Republicans refused to confirm Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Next year, a conservative majority will likely be restored to the Court, a majority that will presumably last for many years to come.
Still, Washington, D.C., is going to be a very different place with a deeply divided Republican party running it. Trump’s candidacy ripped a hole in the GOP and exposed serious fault lines that won’t disappear despite his unexpected victory. Sean Hannity hinted at this Tuesday night when he predicted on Fox News that “Paul Ryan is not going to be the Speaker of the House in January” if Trump is in the White House.
“The establishment on both sides lost touch with the real lives of real Americans,” Hannity said, “and Donald Trump opened the door [and] said we’re going to fix it and turn the table over.”
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @oliviaLbecker