SENATE: Republicans defy odds to keep majority

SENATE: Republicans defy odds to keep majority
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Senate Republicans defied the odds Tuesday and beat back Democrats’ all-out push to win the Senate majority.

The victory is a huge win for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFlake threatens to limit Trump court nominees: report Senate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending MORE (R-Ky.), who took a hands-on role in crafting the defense of 24 Senate seats in what was projected to be a tough cycle for GOP incumbents. 

But many of the Senate GOP incumbents that Democrats hoped to unseat stayed afloat as Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFamily immigration detention centers could be at capacity within days: report Trump likely to meet with Putin in July: report DOJ requests military lawyers to help prosecute immigration crimes: report MORE dramatically outperformed expectations to clinch the presidency. 

Democrats had picked up only one Republican-held seat as of 3 a.m. Wednesday, knocking off Sen. Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE in Illinois. It was a massive disappointment compared to their high hopes only a few weeks before Election Day, when they predicted a gain of as many as seven seats. 

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The result was a dramatic turnabout from earlier in the day, when Senate Republican strategists gave themselves slim chances of keeping the majority and blamed Trump’s undisciplined campaign for stepping on their message. 

Democrats’ dreams of winning back the majority ultimately crumbled around 11 p.m., when media outlets called the Wisconsin race for Sen. Ron JohnsonRonald (Ron) Harold JohnsonSenate probes FBI's heavy-handed use of redactions to obstruct congressional investigators Hillicon Valley: DHS gets new cyber chief | White House warns lawmakers not to block ZTE deal | White nationalists find home on Google Plus | Comcast outbids Disney for Fox | Anticipation builds for report on FBI Clinton probe Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R), a seat that Democrats had for months counted as one of their best pick-up opportunities. 

In addition to Johnson, GOP incumbent Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump Hillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract Lawmakers urge Google to drop partnership with Chinese phone maker Huawei MORE (Fla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Ernst, Fischer to square off for leadership post Facebook gives 500 pages of answers to lawmakers' data privacy questions MORE (Mo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrHillicon Valley: New FTC chief eyes shake up of tech regulation | Lawmakers target Google, Huawei partnership | Microsoft employees voice anger over ICE contract On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senate Intel requests more testimony from Comey, McCabe MORE (N.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's America fights back Mellman: Trump can fix it GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats MORE (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump 13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Lawmakers, businesses await guidance on tax law MORE (Ohio), all won Tuesday, along with Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border The Hill's Morning Report — Trump: `A very great moment in the history of the world’ Todd Young in talks about chairing Senate GOP campaign arm MORE in Indiana. 

"Republicans won because we had better candidates, ran better campaigns, invested early and starting on day one, made every preparation to run in an uncertain and volatile political environment," said National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Chairman Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Overnight Defense: States pull National Guard troops over family separation policy | Senators question pick for Afghan commander | US leaves UN Human Rights Council Senators question Afghanistan commander nominee on turning around 17-year war MORE (Miss.).

The race in New Hampshire was too close to call at 3:15 a.m. with Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteErnst, Fischer to square off for leadership post The Hill's Morning Report: Koch Network re-evaluating midterm strategy amid frustrations with GOP Audit finds US Defense Department wasted hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars MORE (R-N.H.) ahead of Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) by about 600 votes. Neither candidate appeared ready to concede early Wednesday morning. 

Republican Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyFlake threatens to limit Trump court nominees: report On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Markets roiled by Trump's new tariff threat | Trump lashes out at Canada over trade | Warren looks to block Trump pick for consumer agency The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Defiant Trump meets with House GOP amid border blowback MORE, whom Democrats thought earlier in the election cycle might be vulnerable, won in Iowa. Democrats had hoped to make that race about Grassley’s role as Judiciary Committee chairman in the stalemate over the Supreme Court.

Democrats counterpunched with a victory in Illinois, where Rep. Tammy Duckworth knocked off incumbent Sen. Mark Kirk (R) to flip one seat. 

Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto is projected to win in Nevada, according to the AP. That win keeps outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidAmendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP Donald Trump is delivering on his promises and voters are noticing Danny Tarkanian wins Nevada GOP congressional primary MORE's seat in the "D" column and gave Democrats a small consolation prize.

They also held the Colorado seat, where Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs MORE won reelection.

Democrats entered the day assuming they would need to pick up four seats to win back the majority because Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump mocks 'elites' at campaign rally Trump backs down in rare reversal Election Countdown: Family separation policy may haunt GOP in November | Why Republican candidates are bracing for surprises | House Dems rake in record May haul | 'Dumpster fire' ad goes viral MORE was considered such a prohibitive favorite to win the White House. By midnight, the landscape had changed. 

The results are an embarrassing setback for retiring Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and his top deputy, New York Sen. Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats' education agenda would jeopardize state-level success Overnight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Trump officials move to expand non-ObamaCare health plans | 'Zero tolerance' policy stirs fears in health community | New ObamaCare repeal plan Selling government assets would be a responsible move in infrastructure deal MORE (D), who thought he was poised to become the next Senate majority leader when he won reelection Tuesday night. 

Republicans were helped by surprising turnout for Trump, and a massive infusion of cash into the Senate races from donors who were disillusioned with the top of the ticket.

McConnell will get credit for recruiting rising-star Rubio to run for reelection in Florida and building a network of donors who contributed $165 million to outside groups involved in Senate races. It also appears their warnings about the consequences of a Democratic majority in the Senate helped them hold their majority.

GOP incumbent Sens. Lisa Murkowsi (Alaska), Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border All the times Horowitz contradicted Wray — but nobody seemed to notice Senate Dems want watchdog to probe if SEC official tried to pressure bank on gun policies MORE (Idaho), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Another chance to seek the return of fiscal sanity to the halls of Congress Trump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril MORE, (Utah), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens MORE (Ga.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols Boozman13 GOP senators ask administration to pause separation of immigrant families Overnight Defense: Top general defends Afghan war progress | VA shuffles leadership | Pacific Command gets new leader, name | Pentagon sued over HIV policy Senate panel unanimously approves water infrastructure bill MORE (Ark.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate moving ahead with border bill, despite Trump On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs MORE (S.D.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border GOP senators want NAFTA deal from Trump by Labor Day Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (N.D.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranFormer USA Gymnastics CEO pleads Fifth at hearing GOP, Trump at odds on pardon power Lawmakers request meeting with Amtrak CEO over funding for route MORE (Kan.), James Lankford (Okla.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges — Key ObamaCare groups in limbo | Opioids sending thousands of kids into foster care | House passes bill allowing Medicaid to pay for opioid treatments US watchdog: 'We failed' to stem Afghan opium production Senate passes 6B defense bill MORE (Ky.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottGOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border Anti-Trump Republicans better look out — voters might send you packing Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA MORE (S.C.) were projected to win their Senate races. 

Notching victories on the Democratic side were Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor On The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Senators hammers Ross on Trump tariffs | EU levies tariffs on US goods | Senate rejects Trump plan to claw back spending Senators hammer Ross over Trump tariffs MORE(Ore.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor IBM-led coalition pushes senators for action on better tech skills training Members of Congress demand new federal gender pay audit MORE (Wash.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFBI has no excuse to hide future scandals from American public Live coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Student rips DeVos at school safety commission for failure to take on guns MORE (Vt.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), as well as Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Altogether, Republicans, including candidates, party committees and allied super PACs, spent $422 million on Senate races this cycle, according to a tally provided by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

Democrats spent a total of $383 million, according to the same tally.

A Senate Republican strategist who tracks media buys provided different numbers, but they still showed the GOP with a spending advantage.

Spending by Republican candidates, party committees and super PACs totaled $473.3 million, according to that source. Democratic spending across those same categories totaled $439.5 million.

A Republican source familiar with internal spending records said the Senate Leadership Fund, a group linked to McConnell and two affiliated groups, One Nation and Granite State Solutions, raised and spent $165 million.  

McConnell also raised $5 million for the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Some of the Democrats’ top recruits were not as strong as they initially appeared to be. 

Strategists thought former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland was well-positioned to knock off Portman, but his campaign floundered over the summer as his gubernatorial record became a serious vulnerability.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (R-Fla.) was another highly touted recruit, but his youth, thin record and misleading claims about his professional background as a certified public accountant hurt his bid against Rubio. 

Meanwhile, several Senate Republicans helped themselves by running especially effective campaigns.

In Ohio, Portman emphasized his record of accomplishment by pointing to more than 45 bills signed into law by Obama, and his campaign also recruited 2,000 volunteers who made more than 6 million voter contacts.

In Pennsylvania, Toomey artfully weaved between Trump and Clinton, knowing he had to appeal to pro-Trump voters in rural areas and pro-Clinton voters in the cities.

His campaign ran an ad in Philadelphia touting the praise of Clinton’s running mate, Virginia Sen.Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Koch group won't back Stewart in Virginia Kaine shares photos of child detention facility: ‘The real Trump Hotel’ MORE (D), who applauded Toomey’s “seriousness, intellect and civility.” At the same time, it ran an ad in rural Wilkes-Barre slamming Clinton and pledging that Toomey would stop her from having a blank check.

In Florida, Rubio, who ran to the right in the Republican presidential primary earlier in the year, presented himself as more of a centrist and earned points by siding with Democrats against Republicans in the squabble over money to fight the Zika virus.

Democrats’ chances of taking back the Senate in the next election cycle are slim, as they will have to defend 25 seats, including in Republican-leaning states such as Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Indiana and West Virginia. 

Republicans only have to worry about eight seats in 2018.

Updated 3:20 a.m.