Trump delivers for McConnell in Senate races

Trump delivers for McConnell in Senate races
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' Nevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push MORE delivered big for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push Iraq War looms over Trump battle with Iran 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests MORE (R-Ky.) on Election Day, helping Republicans defeat at least three Democratic incumbents in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.

Sens. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyObama honors 'American statesman' Richard Lugar Former GOP senator Richard Lugar dies at 87 Ralph Reed: Biden is a 'formidable and strong candidate' MORE (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillLobbying world Big Dem names show little interest in Senate Gillibrand, Grassley reintroduce campus sexual assault bill MORE (D-Mo.) and Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampOn The Money: Stocks sink on Trump tariff threat | GOP caught off guard by new trade turmoil | Federal deficit grew 38 percent this fiscal year | Banks avoid taking position in Trump, Dem subpoena fight Fight over Trump's new NAFTA hits key stretch Former senators launching effort to help Dems win rural votes MORE (D-N.D.) conceded relatively early in the evening.

A fourth Democratic senator whom Trump campaigned against, Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonRepublicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment Rubio says hackers penetrated Florida elections systems MORE (D-Fla.), was on the cusp of losing early Wednesday morning as he trailed by 50,000 votes, or 0.6 percent, with 99 percent of precincts reporting.

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A fifth Democrat, Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds GOP angst grows amid Trump trade war Overnight Defense — Presented by Huntington Ingalls Industries — Pentagon approves transfer of .5B to border wall | Dems blast move | House Dem pushes Pelosi to sue over Trump's Yemen veto MORE (D-Mont.), whom Trump made a top target because of his role in a clash over the Veteran Affairs Department earlier this year, was behind his opponent, Matt Rosendale, early Wednesday by nearly 2 points — or 7,000 votes — with 80 percent of precincts reporting.

McConnell spoke to Trump earlier Tuesday evening to thank him for all the work he did to buck up Senate GOP races, crisscrossing the nation in the final weeks before Election Day to rally the GOP base.

Senate Democrats managed to pare the GOP gains later in the evening by defeating Sen. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (R-Nev.), their top target.

They also could win the Arizona seat held by retiring Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump WANTED: A Republican with courage MORE (R), although the race between Reps. Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyOvernight Defense: Trump officials say efforts to deter Iran are working | Trump taps new Air Force secretary | House panel passes defense bill that limits border wall funds Trump taps new Air Force secretary Bolton emerges as flashpoint in GOP debate on Iran MORE (R) was too close to call as of 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Trump hailed Election Day as a “tremendous success” on Twitter, even though Democrats picked up at least 26 House seats and control of the lower chamber.

Senate Republicans are likely to pick up at least two seats and as many as four, depending on how the undecided races in Arizona, Florida and Montana shake out.

As a result, McConnell could lead a Senate Republican majority of between 53 and 55 seats.

There is an outside chance that all the undecided races break for Democrats, which would limit the Senate GOP majority in 2019 to 52 seats.

The expanded GOP majority will make it more difficult for Democrats to recapture the Senate in 2020, when the electoral map will be more favorable for them.

The president on Tuesday evening tweeted a quote from conservative commentator and actor Ben Stein citing a statistic that the party of a sitting president has won seats in the Senate only five times in the past 105 years during a midterm election.

Trump claimed victory after focusing on Senate races in the final month of the campaign and largely ignoring House contests, many of which were fought on more favorable Democratic territory carried by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNevada Senate passes bill that would give Electoral College votes to winner of national popular vote 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests Iowa Democrats brace for caucus turnout surge MORE in 2016.

He traveled extensively in the past week, visiting Florida to campaign for Rick Scott (R) on Halloween, Missouri to rally voters for Josh Hawley (R) on Nov. 1, Indiana to help Mike Braun (R) on Nov. 2, back to Florida on Nov. 3, then to Bozeman, Mont., to boost Rosendale that same day, to Tennessee on Nov. 4 and Indiana on Nov. 5.

At each of his rallies, Trump urged voters to elect a Republican to the Senate, arguing he needed more GOP votes in the upper chamber to pass his agenda and warning that Democrats would hurt the economy if they won back power.

He told supporters who waited for hours Saturday to hear him speak outside of Bozeman that Tester would be in “lockstep” with House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTrump rips Dems' demands, impeachment talk: 'Witch Hunt continues!' The Hill's Morning Report - Pelosi remains firm despite new impeachment push The Memo: Trump allies see impeachment push backfiring on Democrats MORE (Calif.), Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersWHIP LIST: Dems who support an impeachment inquiry against President Trump Freshman Dem lawmaker argues with Ben Carson after he tries to reclaim time in hearing Democrats are running out of stunts to pull from impeachment playbook MORE (D-Calif.) and “Crying Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE,” referring to the Senate Democratic leader from New York.

“Remember, Tester voted against your tax cuts,” he said.

On Monday in Indiana, he attacked Donnelly as a faux conservative who would largely stick with Democratic leaders on key votes.

“All of the sudden, he’s talking about what we’ve been talking about,” he told a rally in Fort Wayne. “Here’s the problem. There’s one problem. We’ll have the election tomorrow and on Wednesday he’ll be totally against us. He’ll never vote for us.”

Every Senate Republican candidate Trump visited in the past week either won or was poised to win at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Trump visited Indiana and Missouri a total of five times each and Montana four times in 2018. He visited North Dakota twice and Florida more than a dozen times this year.

As happened in 2016, public polls underestimated Trump’s influence in battleground states.

Polls showed Nelson, Tester and Donnelly clinging to narrow leads and McCaskill tied with Hawley in the days before the election.

Donnelly and McCaskill ended up losing by 10 and 6 percentage points, respectively, and Nelson and Tester stayed stuck behind in the undecided races as Wednesday morning wore on.

A recount in Florida will be triggered automatically if the margin of victory in the Senate race is less than 0.5 percentage points.

Senate Republican leaders knew months ago that Trump would be crucial to revving up the conservative base in a year when Democrats appeared to have an early advantage in voter enthusiasm.

GOP leaders declined to pick a fight with Trump over trade policy by moving legislation curbing his ability to implement tariffs because they feared it would be counterproductive politically in an election year.

Trump’s success in rallying Republican voters will likely strengthen his hand in the Senate GOP conference in the post-election, lame-duck session and the new 116th Congress, which convenes in January.

Two of the president’s most outspoken Senate Republican critics, Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerJeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump Corker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' MORE (Tenn.), are due to retire at the beginning of next year.