Dems save Senate majority, Reid; GOP grabs 6 seats

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 3, 2010; 1:20 AM

WASHINGTON -- Democrats narrowly held their Senate majority Tuesday but suffered at least six stinging losses, including the Illinois seat once held by President Barack Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada survived a fierce challenge from tea party Republican Sharron Angle but Republicans ousted two Democratic senators and picked up Democratic-held seats in three other states.

Reid's win, plus Democratic victories in California and West Virginia, kept Republicans short of the 10-seat gain they needed for the majority.

With Republicans taking over the House, Obama will need a Democratic-run Senate to champion his legislative agenda.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hailed his party's gains. "Tonight the voters ensured their message was heard loud and clear," he said.

Veteran Democratic Sens. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas lost their re-election bids. Republicans took open Democratic-held Senate seats in Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Indiana.

In Illinois, GOP Rep. Mark Kirk won a bitter contest against Democratic state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias for Obama's old seat. Giannoulias was dogged by legal woes at his opponent's family-owned bank, while Kirk had his own problems after exaggerating his military record. Obama made several campaign appearances for Giannoulias, including last Saturday and Sunday.

Tea party champions won high-profile races in Florida and Kentucky, spearheading a likely cadre of libertarian-leaning Republicans who will press party leaders to be more adamant about lower taxes, less spending and smaller government.

Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida rocked the GOP establishment last spring by routing leadership favorites in party primaries. Then they beat back Democrats' efforts to paint them as too extreme, winning comfortably on Tuesday.

In Utah, tea party-backed Mike Lee also won easily after snatching the Republican nomination from Sen. Bob Bennett in March.

"Tonight there's a tea party tidal wave," said an exultant Paul.

Feingold, a three-term Democrat, lost to GOP newcomer Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. Best known for efforts to tighten campaign finance laws, Feingold was the only senator to vote against the so-called Patriot Act passed after the 2001 terrorist attacks, calling it a dangerous infringement on civil liberties.

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