Reid urges cooperation as Democrats expand Senate control

Election Day results

Ted Barrett


5:39 PM EST, November 7, 2012


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Republicans to cooperate with an expanded Democratic majority Wednesday, a day after the Democrats picked up at least one more seat in the chamber.

"It is better to dance than to fight," said Reid, D-Nevada. "It is better to work together. Everything doesn't have to be a fight."

The last votes were still being counted Wednesday in some Western states. CNN now projects Democrat Heidi Heitkamp will beat Republican Rick Berg in North Dakota's Senate race, keeping that seat in Democratic hands after the retirement of longtime Sen. Kent Conrad.

In addition, Montana Sen. Jon Tester was projected to hold off a challenge from Republican congressman Denny Rehberg to win a second term there.

Reid spoke as the outgoing Congress is under pressure to head off a looming combination of tax increases and across-the-board cuts to federal agencies slated to kick in the first week of January. His deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin, said Tuesday's results are hugely important when it comes to that "fiscal cliff."

"We need a more positive outlook to solve our problems," said Durbin, of Illinois. "A stalemate is impossible."

Republicans captured a seat held by retiring Democrat Ben Nelson in Nebraska, where tea party-backed Republican Deb Fischer beat Bob Kerrey, a former Democratic governor and senator.

But Democrats will be replacing Republicans in Massaschusetts, where Sen. Scott Brown lost his bid for a full term to former White House adviser and bailout watchdog Elizabeth Warren; and in Indiana, where GOP veteran Richard Lugar lost a Republican primary to Richard Mourdock, who was beaten by Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly.

The national spotlight shone on Mourdock in the waning weeks of the campaign when he discussed his views on abortion during a debate. He said: "I've struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

"I was attacked for standing on my principles," he said.

A Democrat also replaces one of the Senate's two independents, both of whom align themselves with the Democratic caucus, when Connecticut's Pat Murphy takes over the seat now held by Sen. Joe Lieberman.

That leaves a Senate with 53 Democrats and one independent, Vermont's Bernie Sanders -- up from the 51 Democrats and two independents in the current chamber. And voters in Maine sent another independent to Washington on Tuesday, with former Gov. Angus King taking the place of retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe.

King has studiously refused to say which caucus he'll join. Though both parties say they expect him to align with the Democrats, he says he'll meet with Reid and with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, before making a decision.

"I hope I can be a bit of a bridge between the two parties," King told CNN. "When I was governor, I was an independent and worked with both sides and was able to achieve quite a bit. There were times when I agreed more with the Democrats and times I agreed more with the Republicans."

Democrats also held onto seats in Virginia and Ohio and saw several firsts. Rep. Tammy Baldwin's victory in Wisconsin will make her the first openly gay senator, in addition to being the state's first female senator. Hawaii also elected its first female senator when Democratic Rep. Mazie Hirono won, CNN projects.

There will be a record number of women in the new Senate class -- at least 19, based on CNN projections and current members.

Two years ago, Republicans had every reason to believe they could take back the Senate this year, after major midterm election gains. Going into Tuesday's vote, Republicans were protecting only 10 seats, while Democrats were defending 23 -- many in narrowly divided swing states.

But Republicans fell short of winning the seats they would need to tip the balance of power in the Senate, as controversy clouded the final days of campaigning in several races.

In August, the campaign of Rep. Todd Akin nearly collapsed after the Missouri Republican's comments about "legitimate rape" and his suggestion that women could biologically prevent pregnancy if they are raped. Until then, Republicans believed Akin would defeat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, who polls showed was not very popular after just one term. McCaskill defeated Akin at the polls Tuesday, CNN projected.

Key senate race snapshots

Compiled by Adam Levy and Robert Yoon, CNN Political Research

Winners are based on CNN predictions.

Arizona: Rep. Jeff Flake (R) vs. Richard Carmona (D)

Open seat -- Sen. Jon Kyl (R) is retiring

This race has turned more competitive than originally expected. Democratic nominee Dr. Richard Carmona, a Vietnam veteran and a former U.S. Surgeon General under President George W. Bush, has proven a formidable opponent to six-term Rep. Jeff Flake, whose tough August primary for the GOP nomination left him bruised as he began the general election.

Tightening polls caused both campaigns to go negative with Flake accusing Carmona of having anger issues over an incident in which a former HHS official accused him of banging on her door in the middle of the night and scaring her family (Carmona denies the incident ever occurred). Carmona accuses Flake of not supporting veterans as a congressman (Flake says Carmona is cherry-picking votes and not looking at his entire record).

Democrats think their candidate's strengths and the state's growing Hispanic population will lead to their party's first successful Senate election since 1988. But Republicans point to no significant changes in Hispanic voting records, Flake's endorsements from Sens. Kyl and John McCain, and the state's traditional GOP support as reasons for a Flake victory.

California: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Elizabeth Emken (R)

Democratic incumbent Dianne Feinstein should easily win a fourth full term this November. Her GOP opponent is Elizabeth Emken, a former vice president for government relations at Autism Speaks.

Connecticut: Rep. Chris Murphy (D) vs. Linda McMahon (R)

UPDATE: Chris Murphy predicted winner in Connecticut.

After waging a competitive but ultimately unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2010, former wrestling executive Linda McMahon is making a strong comeback this year. Buoyed by the millions of her own money she invested in the campaign, McMahon's made an effort to soften her image with ads about her personal life and combat attacks from third-term Rep. Chris Murphy.

Despite McMahon's significant financial advantage, Murphy is polling even or ahead of his opponent. In a state where President Barack Obama won by more than 20 points in 2008, a tie in the polls going into Election Day could mean a Murphy win on the president's coattails.

This is a tough state for Republicans in federal office. The last Connecticut Republican to hold a U.S. Senate seat left office in 1989.

Delaware: Sen. Tom Carper (D) vs. Kevin Wade (R)

UPDATE: Tom Carper wins Delaware seat.

Democrat Tom Carper has a clear path to winning a third term in November. He faces Republican businessman Kevin Wade.

Florida: Sen. Bill Nelson (D) vs. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Bill Nelson beats Rep. Connie Mack. 

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's bid for a third term hasn't generated the competitive buzz originally expected in one of the most important presidential battleground states. Nelson's lead over four-term Rep. Connie Mack IV held steady throughout most of the campaign, though recent polls show Mack closing the gap.

TV ads from the candidates and outside groups have driven the race heavily, with less campaigning than usually seen in a U.S. Senate race in the Sunshine State on both sides. There was just one hour-long debate. Mack's poll numbers have improved as Romney's numbers have gone up in the state.

Hawaii:Rep. Mazie Hirono (D) vs. Former Gov. Linda Lingle (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) is retiring

Republicans fielded their best possible candidate in former Gov. Linda Lingle, but their hopes of upsetting third-term Rep. Mazie Hirono in this heavily Democratic state are fading.

Lingle, a popular former governor and formidable fundraiser, beat Hirono in the 2002 gubernatorial race, but in a presidential year the state's Democratic tilt and presence of a native son president heading the other party's ticket may be too much to overcome. Regardless of who wins, the state will elect its first female U.S. senator. If Hirono wins, she'll become the first Asian-American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Indiana: Richard Mourdock (R) vs. Rep. Joe Donnelly (D)

UPDATE: Joe Donnelly (D) is expected to win the seat.

Open seat -- Sen. Richard Lugar (R) was defeated in the primary

When six-term Republican Sen. Richard Lugar lost a bitter primary race to state treasurer Richard Mourdock, Democrats gained an unexpected opportunity to take over the seat with three-term Rep. Joe Donnelly.

Though Indiana is a Republican-leaning state, the polls have been close and some longtime Lugar supporters still haven't rallied behind the GOP nominee. Democrats pounded Mourdock for his comment at a debate two weeks before Election Day that "even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, it is something that God intended." Mourdock the next day clarified his comment and added, "Rape is a horrible thing, and for anyone to twist my words otherwise is absurd and sick."

The full impact of the flap remains to be seen. Donnelly, a relatively conservative Democrat who opposes abortion rights, was one of few red-state Democrats to survive the Republican onslaught of 2010. He has kept the race competitive, but even with the Mourdock comments, Donnelly faces a Republican-friendly electorate and won't get much help from the top of the ticket.

Maine: Charlie Summers (R) vs. Cynthia Dill (D) vs. former Gov. Angus King (I)

UPDATE: Former Gov. Angus King wins senate race in Maine.

Open seat -- Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) is retiring

The unexpected retirement of three-term Sen. Olympia Snowe has set the stage for a three-way contest between Democratic state senator Cynthia Dill, Republican Secretary of State Charlie Summers and former Gov. Angus King, an independent.

King, who quickly rose to frontrunner status, has declined to state until after the election which party he would caucus with in the Senate, though he is widely assumed to align with Democrats. The former governor has endorsements from the Human Rights Campaign, environmental groups and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's new super PAC, which supports gay rights, gun restrictions, and education reform.

The national Democratic party has not actively supported Dill but instead has run ads hammering Summers. The national Republicans focused much of their ad fire on King, with the hope that he and Dill will split enough of the anti-Republican vote to ensure a Summers victory. King was at 50% in a poll in mid-September.

Maryland: Sen. Ben Cardin (D) vs. Daniel Bongino (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Ben Cardin beats Daniel Bongino.

Democrat Ben Cardin should easily beat former Secret Service agent Daniel Bongino for a second term in the U.S. Senate.

Massachusetts: Sen. Scott Brown (R) vs. Elizabeth Warren (D)

UPDATE: Elizabeth Warren projected to win Massachusetts senate seat.

Massachusetts is perhaps the one race that has lived up to all its hype and more. As Republican Sen. Scott Brown competes for a full term against Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren, the race for the state's few remaining undecided voters has taken a sharp tone. Brown launched harsh attacks questioning Warren's claims of Native-American heritage while also highlighting his own bipartisanship in the Senate.

Warren continues to attack Brown for protecting millionaires and for vowing to repeal Obamacare while highlighting her advocacy for the middle class and women's issues. Democrats hope the president's popularity and expected wide margin of victory in Romney's home state will counter Brown's popularity to make Warren the first woman to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate.

Michigan: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) is predicted to win.

Though Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow appeared vulnerable at the beginning of the year in her bid for a third term, her fundraising and poll numbers quickly rose while Republicans searched for a candidate.

Winning a four-way primary was former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who lost a 2010 primary bid for governor. President Barack Obama's popularity, in part due to the auto bailout along with the declining unemployment rate (above the national average, but down about 2 points from January 2009) gives Democrats reason to breathe easier in the Wolverine State.

Minnesota: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) vs. Kurt Bills (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Amy Klobuchar is expected retained her seat.

Democrat Amy Klobuchar is expected to sail to a second term in November. She faces Republican state representative Kurt Bills.

Mississippi: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) vs. Albert N. Gore, Jr. (D)

UPDATE: Sen. Roger Wicker (R) defeats Gore.

Republican Roger Wicker should easily win his bid for a full term. He was appointed in 2007 and won a special election in 2008 to finish out the remainder of Trent Lott's term. He faces Democrat Albert N. Gore Jr., who is not a former vice president -- he's an octogenarian retired minister and ex-Green Beret.

Missouri: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) vs. Rep. Todd Akin (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) defeats Rep. Todd Akin (R).

Plagued by scandals and a conservative electorate, Democrat Claire McCaskill seemed likely to become a one-term senator. That was until her opponent, six-term Republican Rep. Todd Akin, said in a local news interview that women have biological ways to avoid pregnancy after a "legitimate rape."

With a second wind to her campaign, McCaskill pounced as her poll numbers rose and Akin's dropped. Akin refused to drop out of the race despite requests from the GOP establishment. Some conservatives, including Jim DeMint, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum, rallied behind him. Other Republicans kept their distance, though some have come back around out of strong desire to unseat McCaskill.

With a lead over Akin, McCaskill sought to solidify her candidacy for a second term by running ads with female Republican rape survivors planning to vote for her because of Akin's comments. Missouri is still a competitive state for any Democrat, but unless local Republicans come back to Akin in droves, McCaskill appears headed to win a second term.

Montana: Sen. Jon Tester (D) vs. Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R)

Democrat Jon Tester knew he'd have an uphill battle to a second term against six-term Rep. Denny Rehberg. Both are known quantities with high favorables in the state, though neither has been able to crack 50% in the polls. Both campaigns have gone negative in the fight over Social Security, and both say the other is distorting their views.

Like the Massachusetts race, there are few undecideds left, except here Republicans are hoping that works in their favor. Though the state has a history of voting for Democrats statewide along with a Republican for president, Barack Obama's disapproval ratings could drive the strong GOP turnout Rehberg needs to move up a chamber in Congress.

Nebraska: Former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) vs. Deb Fischer (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is retiring

Republicans began eyeing two-term Democrat Ben Nelson's seat even before he announced his retirement. With Nelson out, Democrats pinned their hopes on Bob Kerrey, the former governor and two-term senator. Although a well-known figure in Nebraska, Kerrey spent most of his post-Senate career outside of the state, primarily in New York City where he served as president of The New School.

The conservative super PAC American Crossroads began running ads against Kerrey before he even declared his candidacy. The Republican nominee is state Rep. Deb Fischer, who scored a surprising win in a crowded GOP primary. Kerrey has an uphill battle to keep the seat blue; Fischer has been leading with at least 50% in both independent and partisan polls.

Nevada: Sen. Dean Heller (R) vs. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D)

Democrats' strength in Nevada is being put to the test once again in a Senate election. With voter registration numbers on their side, seven-term Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley hopes to deny Republican Sen. Dean Heller a full Senate term (Heller was appointed to the seat after Republican John Ensign resigned).

A House ethics investigation and a lackluster debate performance have kept Berkley below Heller in the most recent polls. Heller's strong fundraising ability also helped him keep the advantage in a state with a heavy Latino population that overwhelmingly votes Democratic. Both parties are hoping for a win here, though the race should remain close through Election Day. Turnout for the presidential race could have the largest impact on the outcome of this race.

New Jersey: Sen. Robert Menendez (D) vs. Joe Kyrillos (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Robert Menendez (D) wins a second term.

Democrat Bob Menendez is expected to win a second term easily. He faces Republican state Sen. Joe Kyrillos.

New Mexico: Rep. Martin Heinrich (D) vs. former Rep. Heather Wilson (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is retiring

Republicans were initially hopeful that Democratic incumbent Jeff Bingaman's decision to retire presented a pickup opportunity. Their nominee, former Rep. Heather Wilson, has a reputation for being a moderate in this increasingly Democratic-leaning state, but she lost a bruising Senate primary four years ago and has had difficulty getting her footing against Democratic nominee Martin Heinrich, a two-term congressman.

The two have been evenly matched in both fundraising and candidate-sponsored TV ads. However, according to ad spending data from the Campaign Media Analysis Group, the Democratic party and outside groups began pulling their ads in this race three months ago and most Republican groups have since followed suit, a sign that race was becoming less competitive. Both independent and partisan polling since the summer has shown Wilson stuck in the low 40s, with Heinrich leading by various margins.

Wilson also cannot rely on a competitive presidential race at the top of the ticket to help boost turnout in her favor. Heinrich enters the final stretch with a clear advantage.

New York: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) vs. Wendy Long (R)

UPDATE: Kirsten Gillibrand (R) defeates Wendy Long.

Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand should easily win her first full term to the Senate. She faces attorney Wendy Long, a former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

North Dakota: Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rep. Rick Berg (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Kent Conrad (D) is retiring

Former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp gives Democrats their best opportunity to keep the seat of retiring five-term Sen. Kent Conrad. Republicans hope first-term Rep. Rick Berg will repeat the party's success of 2010, when they took over retiring Democrat Byron Dorgan's seat.

The state has a history of split-ticket voting, giving Heitkamp an opportunity to show her independence from national Democrats. She's publicly disagreed with Barack Obama on issues like energy, which she points to as evidence she won't be a rubber stamp. She enjoys high favorables and solid support from Republican ticket-splitters and has hammered Berg for his connection to a controversial real estate company.

With the lowest unemployment rate in the country, North Dakotans have their choice between two candidates with strong statewide appeal. This race will remain close until Election Day.

Ohio: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) vs. Josh Mandel (R)

UPDATE: Sherrod Brown (D) is predicted to beat Josh Mandel.

Amid the backdrop of what is arguably the nation's most competitive presidential battleground contest, first-term Senate incumbent Sherrod Brown hopes to prove that the Democratic wave that helped carry him into office in 2006 wasn't a fluke. Brown, who has a voting record the National Journal classified as one of the most liberal in the Senate, made a ripe target for Republicans looking for a pickup opportunity.

But in the home stretch of the 2012 campaign, Ohio remains conspicuously off the list of the most vulnerable Democratic-held seats. The Republican nominee is Josh Mandel, the 35-year-old state treasurer and Marine Corps veteran. Mandel has kept pace with Brown in terms of fundraising, but he continues to trail the incumbent by around 10 points in several independent polls from September and October.

Brown is far from having the race sewn up, especially with the daily volatility at the top of the ticket, but he has a leg up as the race enters its final days.

Pennsylvania: Sen. Bob Casey (D) vs. Tom Smith (R)

UPDATE: Sen. Bob Casey (D) defeats Tom Smith.

Recent polls have given Republicans hope where they previously had little. As Democratic Sen. Bob Casey's lead over Republican businessman Tom Smith began to tighten, the incumbent began actively campaigning across the state -- something he previously hadn't been doing.

Though Republicans have an opening now, Casey still enters the final stretch with the advantage. The state has not emerged as a contested presidential battleground and a strong showing by Barack Obama here could help Casey beat back this unexpected and late-breaking challenge.

Rhode Island: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) vs. Barry Hinckley (R)

UPDATE: Sheldon Whitehouse wins a second term.

Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse is a safe bet to win a second term in November. He faces Republican businessman Barry Hinckley.

Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker (R) vs. Mark Clayton (D)

UPDATE: Bob Corker (R) wins senate seat.

Unlike the tough battle he had in 2006 to take the seat, Republican Bob Corker should easily win a second term in November. He faces Democrat Mark Clayton, whose candidacy has been disavowed by the Tennessee Democratic Party for his involvement with an anti-gay rights group.

Texas: Ted Cruz (R) vs. Paul Sadler (D)

UPDATE: Ted Cruz (R) is expected to beat Paul Sadler.

Open seat -- Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) is retiring

After a tough primary victory over the candidate endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry and the state party establishment, Republican nominee Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, is now heavily favored this November in his race against Democratic nominee Paul Sadler, a former state representative.

Utah: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) vs. Scott Howell (D)

UPDATE: Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) defeats Scott Howell.

Republican Orrin Hatch learned an important lesson from his former colleague Sen. Bob Bennett in 2010 -- don't take the Republican nomination for granted. Hatch campaigned early and hard to win the GOP nomination over tea party favorite Dan Liljenquist, a former state senator. Hatch now is the overwhelming favorite to win a seventh term in November.

A Democrat hasn't represented Utah in the U.S. Senate in 36 years.

Vermont: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) vs. John MacGovern (R)

UPDATE: Bernie Sanders (I) wins the senate seat.

Independent Bernie Sanders, the Senate's only self-described socialist, is expected to sail to a second term over Republican John MacGovern, a former Massachusetts state representative and unsuccessful congressional candidate.

Virgina: Former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) vs. former Gov./Sen. George Allen (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Jim Webb (D) is retiring

Republican George Allen is fighting hard to win back the seat he lost six years ago to now-retiring Democratic Sen. Jim Webb. A strong Democratic wave, along with a gaffe caught on tape that became infamous on YouTube, stripped Allen of what was expected to be his second term (and perhaps a launching pad to the 2008 GOP presidential nomination). He now faces Democratic nominee Tim Kaine, another former governor, in one of the marquee Senate races of 2012.

Polls remain close. Barack Obama's win in Virginia in 2008 and the strong play he's making for the state in 2012 have given Kaine organizational support. Allen has run ads linking Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee at the start of the Obama administration, to the president and to looming budget cuts. Kaine, in turn, has run ads tying Allen to George W. Bush's economic policies and that he's wrong on women's issues.

Both candidates have seen their leads grow and shrink with the presidential candidates. It's very likely the winner of the Senate seat will be a member of the same party of the presidential candidate who wins Virginia's 13 electoral votes.

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) vs. Michael Baumgartner (R)

Democrat Maria Cantwell is expected to win a third term in November. She faces Republican state Sen. Michael Baumgartner.

West Virginia: Sen. Joe Manchin (D) vs. John Raese (R)

UPDATE: West Virginia Senate seat goes to Joe Manchin.

No, we did not forget to update this section from 2010. Democrat Joe Manchin once again faces Republican businessman John Raese in the contest to win his first full term. Manchin has proven his independence from the president and faces a much easier race this time to win in November.

Wisconsin: Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) vs. former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R)

Open seat -- Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson won a tough Republican primary to take on seven-term Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin for retiring incumbent Herb Kohl's Senate seat. Thompson's attacks on Baldwin as being too liberal haven't had the impact he was hoping. The polls are very close, but Baldwin has pulled slightly ahead recently, though not outside the margin of error.

Unless vice presidential candidate and native son Paul Ryan brings out strong turnout for the party, the state's historic Democratic tilt in presidential elections could help Baldwin succeed to becoming the first openly gay senator.

Wyoming: Sen. John Barrasso (R) vs. Tim Chesnut (D)

UPDATE: Sen. John Barrasso defeats Tim Chesnut.

Republican John Barrasso is expected to win a second term in November. He faces Democratic nominee Tim Chesnut, an Albany County commissioner.