As this article goes to press at 11:30PM, the Republicans are on the verge of taking over the Senate. Needing a net gain of six seats for a majority, the GOP has secured five—Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia—and has held three of its own—Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky—that once seemed in jeopardy. Although Louisiana will go to a runoff in December, Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu is likely to lose it. In addition, the exit polls suggest that Republican Joni Ernst is headed for victory in Iowa. Three other Democratic seats—New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia—remain close. In the end, Virginia and New Hampshire will probably stick with the Democrats while North Carolina falls to incumbent Kay Hagan’s Republican challenger. And the Republicans have prospects in Alaska as well.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night is Virginia, where Mark Warner seemed poised for an easy victory until 48 hours before the election. But he was supported by only 37 percent of white Virginians and 58 percent of self-styled moderates—low totals for a respected centrist Democrat who prides himself on bipartisanship. Despite ongoing demographic changes, the South is still a dangerous place for Democratic candidates, especially in mid-term elections.
Assuming that Mitch McConnell becomes the new Senate Majority Leader, he and President Obama will face a choice. If McConnell leads off with “red meat” votes for his conservative base and Mr. Obama issues a sweeping executive order on immigration policy, Americans can expect two more years of confrontation and gridlock. If they meet early on to focus on areas of potential cooperation, the tone in Washington could change for the better, and something might get done. For a restive and anxious people, bipartisan progress on the problems about which they care the most would come as a welcome relief.