Republicans Keep Control Of The Senate On A Dark Election Night For Democrats
Almost lost in all the furor about the presidential candidates this election was the equally important issue of the Senate. Would the Republicans be able to hold onto their grip of both houses of Congress? Would the Democrats be able to take advantage of the vulnerable Republican incumbent senators to claim the upper house? Well, the results are in, and with the victory in Pennsylvania, the Republicans still have control of the Senate.
Going into the election, the Democrats needed to flip five seats for decisive control of the Senate. Projections at the beginning of the primaries looked grim for Democratic strategists, but having Donald Trump as the Republican presidential nominee gave new hope to a number of Democratic Senate candidates trying to unseat Republican incumbents. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, for example, tied herself in knots with her wavering support for Trump, and her popularity decreased because of it.
In Illinois, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the Democratic challengers were expected to win previously held by Republicans. There were an additional four races between Republican incumbents and Democratic challengers that were deemed to be toss-ups, including the race in New Hampshire, and the GOP has managed to hold onto enough of those seats to win.
Senate control was a key part of both parties' strategy, although the Democrats were able to pursue their aims in a more traditional manner. Hillary Clinton and various other Democratic heavyweights like Elizabeth Warren devoted a lot of time and party money to the Senate campaigns aimed at the most vulnerable GOP candidates. A Congress completely under Republican control was the main roadblock Obama has faced during his last term in office, and Democrats worried that if Clinton won the presidency but the Republicans kept control of the Senate, they would work to block any proposal she put forward.
Trump, on the other hand, didn't exactly offer the same level of support for the down-ballot races. After Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said that he would no longer be campaigning on Trump's behalf, a Trump spokeswoman's tweet implied that Trump supporters could ignore down-ballot races. Numerous high-ranking Republicans have spoken out against Trump, and many fear that his presence on the ballot will dissuade some otherwise Republican-leaning voters from even coming to the polls.
Whether by his own choice or some forceful decisions from the Republican Party, Trump's campaign didn't really work at all for his comrades down the ballot; of course, this was also at least in part because so many senators said they would not support their presidential nominee. Now that it's all decided, though, hopefully Congress can get back to the work that it's been avoiding for the last couple of years: governing the country.