Democrats to retain control of Senate

Democrats will retain control of the Senate next year, having picked up seats in Massachusetts, Indiana and Maine along with holding on to several of their endangered incumbents who were in tough races.

It's a switch from the beginning of the cycle, when the party was seen as in trouble as they were defending more seats than Republicans.

But the recruitment of strong candidates and several gaffes on behalf of GOP challengers helped Democrats keep the upper chamber.

"When we started this campaign, no one, and I mean no one gave us a chance," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in a statement on Tuesday night. "But we went out and built the best Senate campaigns in the history of the country. We recruited some of the highest quality candidates, including a record number of women. Democrats never let up and now we will retain our majority in the United States Senate." 

National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the results meant the GOP needed to do some soul-searching.

"It’s clear that with our losses in the Presidential race, and a number of key Senate races, we have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.  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," he said in a statement.

He also warned Democrats that "they should not over-read their mandate as reflected by the almost evenly-divided popular vote."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who will keep his spot in the 113th Congress, extended an olive branch to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“I look at the challenges that we have ahead of us and I reach out to my Republican colleagues in the Senate and the House. Let’s come together. We know what the issues are, let’s solve them,” he told a boisterous audience packing the ballroom of the Liaison hotel, where Democratic congressional leaders were spending election night.

They had much to celebrate.

The party had a major victory with Democrat Elizabeth Warren's victory in Massachusetts over Republican Sen. Scott Brown. Both parties were heavily invested in the race: Democrats wanted to win back the seat once held by the late-Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Republicans desperately wanted to hold it.

Democrats also picked up seats in Indiana and in Maine.

Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) beat Republican Richard Mourdock, who defeated longtime Sen. Dick Lugar in the GOP primary. Mourdock hurt himself with controversial comments about his opposition to abortion in cases of rape or incest.

In Maine, Independent candidate Angus King won and is expected to caucus with the Democrats, which would turn retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe's (R-Maine) seat blue.

Meanwhile, Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), both top GOP targets, won reelection. McCaskill, who was considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats earlier this year, was boosted by GOP rival Todd Akin's controversial comments on rape.

And Democrat Tim Kaine won in Virginia, defeating former GOP Sen. George Allen, to keep retiring Sen. Jim Webb's (D-Va.) seat. Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) won his contest, keeping retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman's (D-N.M.) seat in Democratic hands.

Polls have closed in Montana and North Dakota — where two competitive contests have not been called. But even if the GOP picks up the two states, it would not be enough to hand them control of the upper chamber. Republicans needed a net gain of four seats — since President Obama won reelection — to take control of the upper chamber.

Republican Rep. Rick Berg said late Tuesday night he will not concede the North Dakota Senate race to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp until the state completes its recount process, which would be next Tuesday. The race between the two is tight with Heitkamp up by nearly 3,000 votes with about 98 percent of the state reporting early Wednesday morning.

Democrats also held onto Connecticut's Senate seat and Wisconsin's Senate seat. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) defeated Republican Linda McMahon, who also lost a Senate bid in 2010. Sen. Joe Lieberman, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats, is retiring. In Wisconsin, Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) defeated Republican Tommy Thompson, the popular former governor. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is retiring.

And Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) won reelection, defeating Republican Rep. Connie Mack.

The Connecticut seat looked more promising for the GOP as the election approached. McMahon ran a strong campaign — much better than her 2010 effort — and was gaining on Murphy in the polls. In Florida, Republicans had hoped for a stronger candidacy from Mack.

Republicans made a strong push for Thompson in Wisconsin, with GOP running mate Paul Ryan and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus campaigning for him. But Thompson faced a tough GOP primary from which he emerged broke and exhausted.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), who faced a tough, last-minute surge from wealthy businessman Tom Smith, also won reelection. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) defeated Republican Linda Lingle, holding on to retiring Sen. Daniel Akaka's (D-Hawaii) seat for Democrats.

One bright spot for the GOP was in Nebraska, where Republican Deb Fischer beat former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), taking retiring Sen. Ben Nelson's (D-Neb.) seat for her party. Also Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) defeated Democrat Richard Carmona in a tough race to keep retiring Sen. Jon Kyl's (R-Ariz.) seat. And Sen. Dean Heller (R-Neb.) won against Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.).

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.),  Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Bob Menendez (N.J.), and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) all won reelection, as did Republican Sens. Bob Corker (Tenn.), Roger Wicker (Miss.), Orrin Hatch (Utah) and John Barrasso (Wyo.).

Republican candidate Ted Cruz, a Tea Party favorite, won a Texas Senate seat.

— This story was originally posted at 8:12 p.m. and last updated at 3:24 a.m.