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Nov 4, 2014 8:53 PM

Republicans making powerful bid for Senate control

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) Resurgent Republicans captured seats in Arkansas, South Dakota and West Virginia on Tuesday as they reached for control of the Senate and a tighter grip on the House in elections certain to complicate President Barack Obama's final two years in office.

The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, dispatched Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky after a $78 million campaign of unrelieved negativity. Voters are "hungry for new leadership. They want a reason to be hopeful," said the man in line to become majority leader and set the Senate agenda if his party gains control.

Two-term incumbent Mark Pryor of Arkansas was the first Democrat to fall, defeated by freshman Rep. Tom Cotton. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito was the GOP winner for a Senate seat in West Virginia, the first of her party to make that claim since 1956.

Former Gov. Mike Rounds triumphed in South Dakota for still another seat currently in Democratic hands, and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy forced Sen. Mary Landrieu into a Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana. The Republicans needed to gain six seats in all to end a Democratic majority in place since 2006

Obama was at the White House as voters remade Congress for the final two years of his tenure. With lawmakers set to convene next week for a postelection session, he invited the leadership to a meeting on Friday.

There were 36 gubernatorial elections on the ballot, and several incumbents struggled against challengers. Tom Wolf captured the Pennsylvania statehouse for the Democrats, defeating Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.

In a footnote to one of the year's biggest political surprises, college professor Dave Brat was elected to the House from Virginia, several months after he defeated Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary.

House Republicans also picked up a Democratic seat held by a retiring Democrat in North Carolina, and bid for more.

Speaker John Boehner of Ohio had little opposition in coasting to a 13th term and is likely to retain his top leadership post.

After years of a sluggish economic recovery and foreign crises aplenty, the voters' mood was sour.

Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the country was seriously on the wrong track. Only about 30 percent said it was generally going in the right direction.

More than four in ten voters disapproved of both Obama and Congress, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

Still, a majority of those polled supported several positions associated with Democrats or Obama rather than Republicans saying immigrants in the country illegally should be able to work, backing U.S. military involvement against Islamic State fighters, and agreeing that climate change is a serious problem.

No matter which party emerged with control of the Senate, a new chapter in divided government was inevitable in a nation marked by profound unease over the future and dissatisfaction with its political leaders.

Several Senate races were close, a list that surprisingly included Virginia.

There, former Republican Party chairman and Bush administration official Ed Gillespie held a narrow lead over Democratic Sen. Mark Warner.

There was better news for Democrats in New Hampshire, where Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was re-elected.

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan was in a tight race with challenger Thom Tillis.

The early Colorado vote showed a close race between Republican Rep. Cory Gardner and his political quarry, Sen. Mark Udall.

There were competitive races also in Georgia, Iowa, Alaska and improbably Kansas, where 78-year-old Sen. Pat Roberts faced a challenger from independent Greg Orman.

A shift in control of the Senate would likely result in a strong GOP assault on deficits, additional pressure to accept sweeping changes to the health care law that stands as Obama's signal domestic accomplishment and a bid to reduce federal regulations.

The large number of highly competitive races, combined with the runoff in Louisiana and likelihood of another in Georgia, raised the possibility that neither party would be able to claim victory by the day after Election Day.

There were 36 Senate races on the ballot, although most of the attention went to fewer than a dozen. They drew hundreds of millions of dollars in attack ads in a campaign season estimated to cost more than $4 billion just for the races for Congress.

In statehouse races, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York won a second term. Former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson was elected governor of Arkansas more than a decade after playing a prominent role in President Bill Clinton's impeachment and trial.

Also winning a new term was Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of several presidential candidates on the ballot across several states.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott led Democratic challenger Charlie Crist in Florida, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin was ahead of his rival, Mary Burke.

Not even Democrats claimed a chance to topple the Republican House majority. They spent the campaign's final days dispatching money to districts where incumbents suddenly found themselves in danger.

Republicans sought to downplay any expectation of large gains. A pickup of 13 would give them more seats in the House than at any time since 1946.

The elections' $4 billion price tag spending was unprecedented for a non-presidential year.


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