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Democrats expand Senate grip but fail to win House

By Tom Raum

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 7 2012 11:04 a.m. MST

"It's also important to realize that it was a decisive election," Van Hollen said on CNN Wednesday. "And one of the big issues in this election was whether or not we should take the balanced approach to reducing the deficit the president has talked about; a combination of cuts but also revenue (increases). It's very clear from the exit polling that a majority of Americans recognize that we need to share responsibility for reducing the deficit. That means asking higher income earners to contribute more to reducing the deficit."

In the new Senate, Democrats would hold a 54-45 advantage if two independents elected to vote with them. On Tuesday, Democrats picked up Republican-held seats in Indiana and Massachusetts while Republicans snatched a lone Democratic seat in Nebraska. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., won re-election and presumably would continue to associate himself with the Democratic caucus.

In Maine, independent former Gov. Angus King was elected to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe, but he declined to say Wednesday which party he will side with. Democrats had rushed to his cause during his campaign.

There still was no declared winner early Wednesday in the North Dakota Senate race, where Democrat Heidi Heitkamp says she believes she's won the contest over Republican Rick Berg to replace retiring Democratic Senator Kent Conrad. In Montana, Democratic incumbent Sen. Jon Tester held on to beat GOP challenger Denny Rehberg.

In another Democratic pickup Tuesday, Rep. Joe Donnelly won the Indiana Senate seat held for six terms by Republican Sen. Richard Lugar. Lugar lost earlier this year in a GOP primary to tea party-backed state Treasurer Richard Mourdock. The race had been rocked by the Republican candidate's controversial comments that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."

And Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., fought back a challenge from Republican Rep. Todd Akin, who severely damaged his candidacy in August when he said women who are victims of "legitimate rape" would not get pregnant.

The Virginia seat that Kaine won opened up when Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat, decided not to run for re-election.

And former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon lost her bid for a Connecticut Senate seat to Democrat Chris Murphy despite spending $42 million of her own wealth. It was the second time in two years she has lost a Senate race. The seat had been long held by Sen. Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucused with Democrats and was the Democratic vice presidential candidate in 2000.

In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin defeated former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.

In the House, both Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California were re-elected, as were other top leaders of both parties, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and the No. 2 House Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland.

And while GOP Rep. Paul Ryan lost the vice presidency, he did win another term to his Wisconsin House seat.

Former GOP presidential hopeful Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was narrowly re-elected.

A party needs 218 seats to control the House. The party mix in the new House will resemble the current one, which Republicans control by 240-190. There are two GOP and three Democratic vacancies. The GOP and Democratic pickups were pretty generally divided.

By early Wednesday, Democrats had defeated 12 GOP House incumbents — 10 of them members of the huge tea party-backed freshman class of 2010. Republican losers included four incumbents from Illinois, two each from New Hampshire and New York, and one apiece from Florida, Maryland, Minnesota and Texas.

But Republicans picked up nine previously Democratic seats. Their candidates defeated one Democratic incumbent apiece in Kentucky, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania; they picked up one open seat each in Arkansas, California, Indiana, North Carolina and Oklahoma currently held by Democrats who retired or ran for another office.

With almost 90 percent of the 435 House races called by The Associated Press, Republicans had won 227 seats and were leading in nine more. For a majority in the chamber, a party must control 218 seats. Democrats had won 178 seats and were leading in 19 others.

In remarks to Democrats, Pelosi said her party would be "fighting for reigniting the American dream, building ladders of opportunity for people who want to work hard and play by the rules and take responsibility."

In a somber statement, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Republicans "have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead." He added that, "While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight."

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Follow Tom Raum on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tomraum.

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