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2014 Midterm Elections

Republicans Take Control of the Senate


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Democrats took a beating in the 2014 midterm elections, losing control of the Senate, seats in the House, and occupancy of governors mansions in several reliably blue states. While Republicans were expected to fare well in races across the country, the drubbing Democrats experienced was stunning. President Barack Obama's low approval ratings, unease over the pace of the economic recovery, fear of a wave of immigrants entering the country, and Obama's handling of the Ebola outbreak contributed to the Repubicans' victories. Most of the Republican candidates criticized their Democratic opponents simply for sharing political affiliation with the president, and some Democrats went to great lengths to distance themselves from Obama. Few asked Obama to stump for them.

Republicans needed to gain six seats in the Senate to swing the balance of power from Democrat to Republican. They won nine: Alaska, North Carolina, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, West Virginia, Arkansas, Montana, and South Dakota. Republicans have 54 seats, Democrats 46 (including two Independents, Vermont's Bernie Sanders and and Angus King of Maine, who caucus with Democrats). Sen. Mitch McConnell will take over as Senate Majority Leader from Nevada's Harry Reid. In the House, Republicans gained 12 seats. Republicans have 243 seats to Democrats' 181. Eleven seats remain undecided. It's the first time in eight years that Republicans will control both houses of Congress.

At the state level, there were 36 races for governor, and Republicans picked up four states formerly held by Democrats: Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The latter two being Democratic strongholds. Democrats ousted the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, leaving Republicans with a net gain of three seats.

Voter turnout was very low. Only 36.6% of eligible voters went to the polls. That's down from 41.8% in the 2010 midterms.

Obama Faces Tough Road Ahead

A day after the election, Obama, acknowledged that voters had sent him a message and said he's ready to work with Congress to get things done. "As president, they rightly hold me accountable to do more to make it work properly," he said. However, he followed that conciliatory message with a vow to use his executive power to move forward with immigration reform. "I think it’s fair to say I’ve shown a lot of patience and tried to work on a bipartisan basis as much as possible, and I’m going to continue to do so. But in the meantime, let’s see what we can do lawfully through executive actions to improve the functioning of the system." The results make clear that Obama will not have the support to reform immigration, expand Medicaid under the Afforadable Care Act, or increase the federal minimum wage. In fact, several candidates promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act if elected.

McConnell also said that gridlock is not necessarily inevitable. "When the American people choose divided government, I don’t think that means they don’t want us to do anything," he said. "I want to first look for areas that we can agree on. There probably are some."

Key Races:

Senate:

In North Carolina, Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan lost to Republican Thom Tillis.

Incumbent Democrat Mark Udall lost to Republican Cory Garnder in Colorado.

Republican Pat Roberts beat back a strong challenge by Independent Greg Orman in Kansas.

Joni Ernst will be Iowa's first woman senator. She defeated Democrat Bruce Braley.

House:

Elise Stefanik (R-NY), 30, became the youngest woman elected to Congress.

Ludmya Bourdeau "Mia" Love won her race in Utah. She's the first African-American Republican woman to serve in the House.

Gubernatorial Races:

Wisconsin re-elected Gov. Scott Walker.

Rick Scott defeated Democrat and former Republican Charlie Crist in Florida.

Incumbent Democrat John Hickenlooper narrowly prevailed over Bob Beauprez in Colorado.

Democratic candidate Martha Coakley lost to Republican Charlie Baker in Massachusetts.

—Beth Rowen