Rep. Tammy Baldwin waves to supporters after making her victory speech… (Andy Manis / Associated…)
WASHINGTON -- With the final Senate races all but decided, Democrats will expand their majority by at least one seat, pushing the party breakdown to 54-45 – or 55 seats for Democrats if the new independent senator from Maine decides to caucus with them. The Senate also will have a record number of women.
The result was far from the sweep Republicans had expected in their pursuit of the majority, and the party ended up losing two seats -- prompting much political soul-searching.
“It’s clear that we’re going to increase our majority,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Wednesday at the Capitol. “The results show a number of things for certain — we’re the party of diversity.”
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As many as five new women senators are set to join the upper chamber – four of them Democrats in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, North Dakota and Hawaii, with one new Republican woman senator from Nebraska. Two female senators are retiring. Reid noted that one-third of the Democratic caucus was now women – up from just one when he was first elected to the chamber 25 years ago.
Republicans have been within reach of the majority for the past two election cycles, but watched their hopes slip as the party nominated tea party-aligned candidates in 2010 and 2012 who were rejected by voters as too extreme.
“We have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party,” said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of Senate campaign efforts. “While some will want to blame one wing of the party over the other, the reality is candidates from all corners of our GOP lost tonight. Clearly we have work to do in the weeks and months ahead.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a tea party favorite elected two years ago, said the party must do a better job at reaching Latino voters and other minorities who overwhelmingly prefer Democrats.
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“The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them,” Rubio said.
The Senate races were all but decided early Wednesday, though in North Dakota, rules allow for a recount if the margin is under a particular threshold. Republican Rep. Rick Berg was down by nearly 3,000 votes to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp, but was retaining his ability to request the recount until after election officials had certified the tally – which was expected early next week.
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