GOP at +7 Senate seats, with Alaska and Virginia too close to call

With the GOP Senate majority assured, attention will now focus on the three remaining races to see if Republicans can run up the score.

In Alaska, with results from all precincts in, Republican challenger Dan Sullivan holds an 8,000-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.  And in the surprise of the night, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie – down 20 points just a couple of weeks ago to incumbent Democrat Mark Warner – finds himself just 12,000 votes behind with 95% of the precincts reporting.

First, Alaska:

Speaking just after midnight at his election night party in a packed ballroom at the Hotel Captain Cook, Sullivan praised his supporters and told them: “We are taking back our country!”

“We’re still going to be respectful of the process,” Sullivan said. But he nonetheless touted Republicans’ successes in Senate races across the country Tuesday, and to hearty cheers, he proclaimed that the party had sidelined Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate.

“We’re going to take back America, the land that we love,” Sullivan said, as the crowd erupted in chants of “USA! USA!”

Shortly before midnight, Begich’s campaign issued a statement saying he wouldn't be commenting on the race until all the rural Alaska precincts were counted.

The Senate race was the costliest campaign in Alaska's history, with more than $50 million spent by the two major candidates and the groups that supported them. The race was viewed as potentially pivotal in flipping control of the Senate out of the hands of Democrats.

But by the time polls closed in Alaska, control of the Senate was already decided, with Republicans winning key races in Colorado, Arkansas, North Carolina and Iowa. And as they awaited results, Sullivan supporters at his party joked they were expecting the arrival of a Republican “red bore tide” in Alaska.

“We saw a wave today,” said Sullivan’s political consultant, Mike Dubke.

With votes from some precincts still uncounted early Wednesday, Sullivan’s campaign hadn’t officially declared victory.

Tens of thousands of additional votes won’t be counted until next week, at the earliest, state election officials said. That includes some 20,000 absentee votes the state hadn’t counted as of Tuesday evening -- and even more absentee ballots will continue to arrive through a Nov. 19 deadline. There are also an unspecified number of so-called “questioned ballots” -- typically cast by people who voted at the wrong polling place -- of which there were approximately 13,000 in the last midterm election, in 2010.

But Democrats would need a huge advantage among those uncounted voters to close Sullivan’s lead, which sat above 8,000 votes.

Sullivan would appear to be in very good shape.  Barring a surprise, he should be declared the winner sometime around Thanksgiving.

Virginia is more problematic for Republicans.  Gillespie will almost certainly demand a recount, as the results are within the 1% margin required by law.  But it would be nearly unprecedented for him to make up the 12,000-vote deficit he faces.  Republicans in Virginia are left wondering what would have happened if Gillespie had received decent support from the Senate campaign committee and outside groups, if he would have been able to best Warner.

As everyone expected, Louisiana is headed for a December 16 runoff.  Despite incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu pulling in only 42% of the vote, with the Republican challenger who will face her, Bill Cassidy, and also ran Ron Maness polling 55% combined, Republicans should be very worried about this runoff.

Historically, runoff elections have an even lower turnout than midterms.  Combine that with the fact that the GOP has already won a Senate majority, and it's possible many Republicans will stay home on December 16.  You have a possible scenario where Landrieu can sneak through.

Then there is Landrieu herself.  She has already won two runoff elections in her career, giving her a definite edge.  Democrats will pour money into her coffers, looking to make a statement that they're far from dead.  All in all, although the polls give the nod to Cassidy in a runoff, this one is far from being in the bag.
 

With the GOP Senate majority assured, attention will now focus on the three remaining races to see if Republicans can run up the score.

In Alaska, with results from all precincts in, Republican challenger Dan Sullivan holds an 8,000-vote lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.  And in the surprise of the night, former RNC chair Ed Gillespie – down 20 points just a couple of weeks ago to incumbent Democrat Mark Warner – finds himself just 12,000 votes behind with 95% of the precincts reporting.

First, Alaska:

Speaking just after midnight at his election night party in a packed ballroom at the Hotel Captain Cook, Sullivan praised his supporters and told them: “We are taking back our country!”

“We’re still going to be respectful of the process,” Sullivan said. But he nonetheless touted Republicans’ successes in Senate races across the country Tuesday, and to hearty cheers, he proclaimed that the party had sidelined Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate.

“We’re going to take back America, the land that we love,” Sullivan said, as the crowd erupted in chants of “USA! USA!”

Shortly before midnight, Begich’s campaign issued a statement saying he wouldn't be commenting on the race until all the rural Alaska precincts were counted.

The Senate race was the costliest campaign in Alaska's history, with more than $50 million spent by the two major candidates and the groups that supported them. The race was viewed as potentially pivotal in flipping control of the Senate out of the hands of Democrats.

But by the time polls closed in Alaska, control of the Senate was already decided, with Republicans winning key races in Colorado, Arkansas, North Carolina and Iowa. And as they awaited results, Sullivan supporters at his party joked they were expecting the arrival of a Republican “red bore tide” in Alaska.

“We saw a wave today,” said Sullivan’s political consultant, Mike Dubke.

With votes from some precincts still uncounted early Wednesday, Sullivan’s campaign hadn’t officially declared victory.

Tens of thousands of additional votes won’t be counted until next week, at the earliest, state election officials said. That includes some 20,000 absentee votes the state hadn’t counted as of Tuesday evening -- and even more absentee ballots will continue to arrive through a Nov. 19 deadline. There are also an unspecified number of so-called “questioned ballots” -- typically cast by people who voted at the wrong polling place -- of which there were approximately 13,000 in the last midterm election, in 2010.

But Democrats would need a huge advantage among those uncounted voters to close Sullivan’s lead, which sat above 8,000 votes.

Sullivan would appear to be in very good shape.  Barring a surprise, he should be declared the winner sometime around Thanksgiving.

Virginia is more problematic for Republicans.  Gillespie will almost certainly demand a recount, as the results are within the 1% margin required by law.  But it would be nearly unprecedented for him to make up the 12,000-vote deficit he faces.  Republicans in Virginia are left wondering what would have happened if Gillespie had received decent support from the Senate campaign committee and outside groups, if he would have been able to best Warner.

As everyone expected, Louisiana is headed for a December 16 runoff.  Despite incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu pulling in only 42% of the vote, with the Republican challenger who will face her, Bill Cassidy, and also ran Ron Maness polling 55% combined, Republicans should be very worried about this runoff.

Historically, runoff elections have an even lower turnout than midterms.  Combine that with the fact that the GOP has already won a Senate majority, and it's possible many Republicans will stay home on December 16.  You have a possible scenario where Landrieu can sneak through.

Then there is Landrieu herself.  She has already won two runoff elections in her career, giving her a definite edge.  Democrats will pour money into her coffers, looking to make a statement that they're far from dead.  All in all, although the polls give the nod to Cassidy in a runoff, this one is far from being in the bag.