After months of fretting about a tough electoral map, Republicans kept control of the House and Senate as they successfully defended a number of vulnerable seats Tuesday night.
The GOP held its ground in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Indiana, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
Democrats netted a seat in Illinois, and one race was still too close to call — but the GOP ensured it would keep a majority with the projection just before 1:30 a.m. that Sen. Pat Toomey would win re-election in Pennsylvania.
“Two years ago, voters elected a Republican majority to put the Senate back to work doing the people’s business. Over the last two years, Republicans have delivered on that promise and voters have spoken once again,” said Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
In the House, Democrats did gain ground, but nowhere near the number of seats needed to overcome the GOP’s massive advantage.
Heading into the election, the GOP was on defense in so many states that prognosticators had predicted the Senate would flip.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell said in a tight finish, the unsung hero of the night is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who orchestrated the firewall even as his candidates struggled to campaign in the shadow of presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“McConnell, ironically, had far better instincts when it came to dealing with Trump than, say, Paul Ryan,” he said.
Mr. Ryan, the House speaker, waffled on whether to support Mr. Trump while Mr. McConnell embraced him then moved on to other issues.
Democrats, meanwhile, will likely point fingers at FBI Director James B. Comey for creating a headwind by his late-season announcements on the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server, predicted Democratic strategist Jim Manley.
“Many Democrats saw some pretty significant momentum a week or so ago, in that in some states Democrats were outperforming Clinton,” Mr. Manley said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican who won his first re-election bid in a closely watched, expensive race, tried to reassure uneasy voters during his election night victory speech.
“America’s going to be OK. We will turn this country around,” Mr. Rubio said.
“I know you feel betrayed, and you have a right to,” he said. “But we must channel that anger and frustration into something positive.”
In Ohio, Sen. Rob Portman easily won a second term in his race against Democrat Ted Strickland. Networks called the race in Ohio soon after polls in the state closed at 7:30 p.m. EST.
“Regardless of which party controls the Senate, I’m going to treat my Senate colleagues — new or old, Democrat or Republican — on the assumption that they care about our country as much as I do,” Mr. Portman said in excerpts of his victory speech.
In Florida, networks called the race between Mr. Rubio and Democratic Rep. Patrick Murphy shortly after the final polls closed at 8 p.m. EST. After flaming out in the Republican presidential primary, Mr. Rubio ended up reversing course and decided to seek re-election.
In Indiana, Republican Rep. Todd Young knocked off former Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Dan Coats. Mr. Bayh at one time enjoyed a huge lead in the polls. Networks called that race about 90 minutes after final polls closed.
In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson held off former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in a re-match of their 2010 race, in a contest Democrats had targeted heavily.
In New Hampshire, GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte was locked in race to the wire against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan by a narrow margin.
“We always knew it was going to be close – and while we’re feeling good right now, this race is still too close to call,” Ms. Hassan said in a statement that suggested she would await further word in the morning.
Meanwhile, Mr. Toomey was able to beat Democrat Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania.
In North Carolina, GOP Sen. Richard Burr defeated Democrat Deborah Ross.
And in Missouri, GOP Sen. Roy Blunt defeated Democratic Secretary of State Jason Kander.
A few lone bright spots for Democrats in what was almost a complete wipe-out came in Illinois, Colorado, and Nevada.
Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth knocked off GOP Sen. Mark Kirk in Illinois for what appeared to be Democrats’ only pick-up of the night.
In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet defeated Republican Darryl Glenn.
And in Nevada, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto defeated GOP Rep. Joe Heck in the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Harry Reid.
In the Louisiana race to replace retiring GOP Sen. David Vitter, Republican John Kennedy appeared set to advance to a December run-off, with Democrat Foster Campbell coming out just ahead of Republican Charles Boustany for second.
In the state’s so-called “jungle primary,” the top two vote-getters will face off in the Dec. 3 run-off if nobody gets a majority of the vote.
In the House, Democrats were looking at a net gain of potentially about 10 seats - nowhere near the 30 they would need to flip control of the lower chamber.