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 McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump 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 Trump 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 JohnsonKavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow House panel advances DHS cyber vulnerabilities bills 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 RubioRubio unloads on Turkish chef for 'feasting' Venezuela's Maduro: 'I got pissed' For Poland, a time for justice Judiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh MORE (Fla.), Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntMurkowski echoes calls for Kavanaugh, accuser to testify Kavanaugh, accuser to testify publicly on Monday Kavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow MORE (Mo.), Richard BurrRichard Mauze BurrTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Energy: Trump rolls back methane pollution rule | EPA watchdog to step down | China puts tariffs on US gas Graham: Mueller is going to be allowed to finish investigation MORE (N.C.), John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump administration weakens methane pollution standards for drilling on public lands Another recession could hit US in 2019, says credit union association chief R-E-S-P-E-C-T: One legacy of Franklin and McCain is up to us MORE (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.), Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanGraham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment MORE (Ohio), all won Tuesday, along with Rep. Todd YoungTodd Christopher YoungOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen 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 WickerTrump cancels Mississippi rally due to hurricane Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke GOP senators introduce bill to preserve ObamaCare's pre-existing conditions protections MORE (Miss.).

The race in New Hampshire was too close to call at 3:15 a.m. with Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain 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 GrassleyDem: 'Bulls---' to say GOP doing everything to contact Kavanaugh accuser Grassley wants unredacted version of letter from Kavanaugh's accuser Attorney for Kavanaugh accuser criticizes Senate panel's ‘rush to a hearing’ 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 ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination 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 BennetOvernight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan senators unveil proposal to crack down on surprise medical bills Multiple NFL players continue on-field protests during national anthem 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 ClintonHillicon Valley: Trump's exclusive interview with Hill.TV | Trump, intel officials clash over Russia docs | EU investigating Amazon | Military gets new cyber authority | Flynn sentencing sparks new questions about Mueller probe READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV Keeping up with Michael Avenatti 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 SchumerTrump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle READ: President Trump’s exclusive interview with Hill.TV The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump slams Sessions in exclusive Hill.TV interview | Kavanaugh accuser wants FBI investigation 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 CrapoHillicon Valley: Trump signs off on sanctions for election meddlers | Russian hacker pleads guilty over botnet | Reddit bans QAnon forum | FCC delays review of T-Mobile, Sprint merger | EU approves controversial copyright law Trump authorizes sanctions against foreign governments that interfere in US elections Cruz gets help from Senate GOP in face of serious challenge from O’Rourke MORE (Idaho), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeUtah group complains Mia Love should face criminal penalties for improper fundraising Senate approves 4B spending bill Overnight Health Care: Opioid legislation passes overwhelmingly | DOJ backs Cigna-Express Scripts merger | Senate passes ban on pharmacy gag clauses MORE, (Utah), Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonTrump blasts Tester at Montana rally: 'He loves the swamp' Renaming Senate office building after McCain sparks GOP backlash GOP senator warns Trump: Anyone who trash-talks McCain 'deserves a whipping' MORE (Ga.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanOvernight Defense: Duncan Hunter refusing to step down from committees | Trump awards Medal of Honor to widow of airman | Pentagon names pick for Mideast commander Trump awards posthumous Medal of Honor to family of fallen Air Force sergeant GOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE MORE (Ark.), John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneWant to improve health care? Get Americans off of their couches More Dems want focus on job creation than wage growth Google, Apple, Amazon execs to testify at Senate privacy hearing this month MORE (S.D.), John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenOvernight Energy: Trump Cabinet officials head west | Zinke says California fires are not 'a debate about climate change' | Perry tours North Dakota coal mine | EPA chief meets industry leaders in Iowa to discuss ethanol mandate 74 protesters charged at Capitol in protest of Kavanaugh Big Oil’s carbon capture tax credit betrayal MORE (N.D.), Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranMcConnell: Sessions should stay as attorney general Tougher Russia sanctions face skepticism from Senate Republicans Farm groups fear Trump aid won’t fix trade damage MORE (Kan.), James Lankford (Okla.), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (Ky.), Richard Shelby (Ala.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottTrump assures storm victims in Carolinas: 'We will be there 100 percent' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Trump to visit North Carolina on Wednesday in aftermath of Florence MORE (S.C.) were projected to win their Senate races. 

Notching victories on the Democratic side were Sens. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenWyden says foreign hackers targeted personal accounts of senators, staffers Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report Hillicon Valley: North Korean IT firm hit with sanctions | Zuckerberg says Facebook better prepared for midterms | Big win for privacy advocates in Europe | Bezos launches B fund to help children, homeless MORE(Ore.), Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayJudiciary Democrat calls for additional witnesses to testify on Kavanaugh Kavanaugh allegations set stage for Anita Hill sequel Time for action to improve government data analysis MORE (Wash.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyKavanaugh allegations set stage for Anita Hill sequel Senate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh 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 KainePoll: Kaine leads GOP challenger by 19 points in Va. Senate race GOP offers to ban cameras from testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Corey Stewart fires aide who helped bring far-right ideas to campaign: report 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.