Dems hold on to Senate majority
WASHINGTON -- Democrats retained their Senate majority Tuesday, losing five seats but winning key races in West Virginia and California.
Republicans scored big gains, taking Senate seats from Democrats in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Arkansas, North Dakota and Indiana. The net gain of 10 they needed for control of the chamber, however, eluded them.
With Republicans taking over the House, President Obama will need a Democrat-run Senate to champion his legislative agenda.
Veteran Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas lost their re-election bids.
But West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin held off millionaire Republican John Raese to keep a Democrat in the seat held for half a century by the late Robert C. Byrd. And Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., won a fourth term despite a spirited challenge from Republican Carly Fiorina.
Those victories left Republicans no way to take the majority. They possibly could achieve a 50-50 split. But Vice President Joe Biden, the Senate's official president, would break ties in the Democrats' favor.
Tea Party champions won high-profile races in Florida and Kentucky, spearheading a likely cadre of libertarian-leaning Republicans who will press party leaders to be more adamant about lower taxes, less spending and smaller government.
Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida rocked the GOP establishment last spring by routing leadership favorites in party primaries. Then they beat back Democrats' efforts to paint them as too extreme, winning comfortably yesterday.
In Utah, Tea Party-backed Mike Lee won easily after snatching the Republican nomination from Sen. Bob Bennett in March.
"Tonight there's a Tea Party tidal wave," said an exultant Paul.
Feingold, a three-term Democrat, lost to GOP newcomer Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Best known for efforts to tighten campaign finance laws, Feingold was the only senator to vote against the so-called Patriot Act passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks, calling it a dangerous infringement on civil liberties.
Johnson, 55, made a fortune in manufacturing plastics. He wants to repeal the nation's new health care law, which he calls the greatest single assault on freedom in his lifetime.
Lincoln fell to GOP Rep. John Boozman in Arkansas, where Obama lost by 20 percentage points two years ago.
Conservatives said Lincoln, who won her first two Senate elections comfortably, was too close to Obama, while liberals said she wasn't loyal enough.
Indiana voters sent Republican Dan Coats back to the chamber after a 12-year absence. Coats, who spent a decade in the Senate before stepping down in 1998, defeated Democratic Rep. Brad Ellsworth. The seat is being vacated by Democrat Evan Bayh.
In North Dakota, Republican Gov. John Hoeven handily won the Senate seat that retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan held for 18 years.
Election Day 2010
Election day scenes from polling places around the Pittsburgh area, Tuesday, November 2, 2010.