A day at the races
A look at some of the most hotly contested House and Senate races on Election Day. Democrats lost many pivotal seats as part of a Republican wave. Click on each row for analysis. By Dan Eggen
SENATE Arkansas John Boozman (R)
Lincoln is ousted by Republican Boozman
Sen. Blanche Lincoln survived a primary challenge from the left earlier this year, only to get roundly defeated from the right on Election Day.
Lincoln, a centrist Democrat, was ousted by Rep. John Boozman (R), who rode a wave of anti-incumbent discontent into the U.S. Senate.
Boozman relentlessly attacked Lincoln for her votes in favor of health-care legislation, the stimulus bill and Wall Street regulation and cast her as a too-liberal ally of President Obama.
The irony of the situation was bitter for Lincoln, who was viewed among liberal Democrats as too cozy with Wal-Mart, oil companies and other corporate interests. National labor groups angry about her opposition to union card-check legislation mounted a bitter and divisive primary challenge against her; Lincoln narrowly won a runoff in June against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.
Lincoln struggled against Boozman, an optometrist and former cattle rancher, and last-minute help from Bill Clinton was not enough.
Lincoln was the youngest woman ever appointed to the Senate in 1998, at the age of 38, and served as chair of the Agriculture Committee. She first won election that same year by defeating Fay Boozman, a state senator and brother of John Boozman.
SENATE California Barbara Boxer (D)
Boxer easily defeats
GOP challenger Fiorina
The outcome dashed Republican hopes of ousting Boxer, 69, who faced the toughest challenge of her career from Fiorina, a former Hewlett-Packard CEO who spent more than $5 million of her own money on the race.
Boxer also faced a deluge of attack ads from conservative groups and GOP committees, which spent nearly $10 million compared with less than $2 million in independent spending in support of Boxer.
Fiorina, 56, blamed Democrats for failed economic policies and highlighted her pioneering role as the female head of one of the country's largest companies. But Boxer accused Fiorina of cruel layoffs and outsourcing jobs to foreign countries while at HP; she also painted Fiorina as too conservative on social issues for California.
Unlike many Democrats in more conservative areas of the country, Boxer also embraced President Obama, featuring him in her commercials and joining him in a pre-election rally aimed at firing up the Democratic base.
Exit poll data shows Boxer won decisively among women, pulling an estimated 56 percent compared with 39 percent for Fiorina.
SENATE Connecticut Richard Blumenthal (D)
Blumenthal takes down
At times, the Senate race in Connecticut looked a lot like the rowdy professional wrestling matches that GOP nominee Linda McMahon used to run.
But after all the rhetorical body slams and gouged eyes, Democrat Richard Blumenthal easily fended off McMahon's challenge Tuesday, winning the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Christopher J. Dodd.
The outcome provides some good news for beleaguered Democrats, who had enough headaches this year without having to spend time defending a blue seat in New England. The race included allegations of an inflated war resume, dead wrestlers and a great deal of squabbling over McMahon's decision to spend $50 million of her own money on the race.
Blumenthal's own fortunes wavered earlier this year after he was caught on video suggesting that he had served in Vietnam. The 20-year state attorney general said he "misspoke," but the issue haunted him to the end. "If he lied about Vietnam, what else is he lying about?" one McMahon ad asked.
But Blumenthal surged to a comfortable lead in the final weeks as McMahon sagged under the weight of attacks on her unorthodox past as a former owner of World Wrestling Entertainment.
Even at the end, the mood of a circus hung over the race. McMahon's voluble husband, Vince, blasted the Justice Department's "heavy-handed bullying" after being warned against staging a WWE T-shirt giveaway at selected polling locations.
SENATE Delaware Chris Coons (D)
Tea party favorite O'Donnell falls to Coons
She is not a witch. She is also not a U.S. senator.
Tea party favorite Christine O'Donnell stunned the Republican establishment with her quixotic primary victory and her attention-seeking Senate campaign, including running an ad declaring that she did not, in fact, dabble in the dark arts. But O'Donnell never really had a chance, trailing badly for weeks and finally losing Tuesday to Democrat Chris Coons.
O'Donnell, it seems, was loved more by late-night comics than she was by the voters of Delaware. A longtime cable phenomenon prone to gaffes on subjects ranging from sex to the scientific limits of brain implants, O'Donnell nonetheless pulled off a primary upset in September by beating moderate Rep. Michael N. Castle.
Democrats seized on O'Donnell as a symbol of extremism within the Republican Party, while O'Donnell made amateurish blunders that held her poll numbers down despite millions in tea party donations. One of her final mistakes came over the weekend when she went to the trouble of producing a half-hour mini-documentary on herself, only to fail to get it on the air because of missed deadlines.
Coons, by contrast, is an exceedingly typical Senate candidate with degrees in law and divinity and six years of experience as New Castle County executive. He will take over the seat that was long occupied by Vice President Biden and held since 2009 by appointee Ted Kaufman.
SENATE Florida Marco Rubio (R)
Rubio scores big win for GOP and tea party
Meek ignored a last-ditch plea from the former president to drop out of the three-way race last week in hopes of funneling more support to Crist, the Florida governor who parted ways with Republicans after losing to Rubio in the primary.
Rubio, who attracted strong support from conservatives, sailed to an easy win Tuesday as Crist and Meek effectively squabbled for Democratic and moderate Republican votes. Meek refused to bow out despite trailing badly in the polls, while Crist tamped down Democratic support by playing coy about whether he would caucus with them in the Senate.
Crist once held the lead in the race but had struggled for months to define himself between the two party candidates. Florida voters, buffeted by the housing crisis and a 12 percent unemployment rate, turned to Rubio as a Washington outsider strongly opposed to President Obama and congressional Democrats.
Rubio's well-run campaign was widely hailed even by detractors. The Florida House leader appeared to remain cool and confident to the end, even while Crist and Meek spent most of their time bickering among themselves.
SENATE Illinois Mark Kirk (R)
Republican Kirk wins Obama's former seat
Not only did Democrats lose the House, but they also lost President Obama's Senate seat.
In a substantive and symbolic blow for the White House, Rep. Mark Kirk defeated Democrat Alexi Giannoulis on Tuesday for a U.S. Senate seat representing Illinois. The same seat was occupied just two years ago by Obama as he swept to victory in the presidential race.
Political parties and outside groups poured more than $18 million into the race between Giannoulias, an Obama protege, and Kirk, a moderate House lawmaker. Because of a court ruling, the winner will be sworn in before January to take over for Sen. Roland Burris (D), who effectively served as a caretaker appointee after Obama won the White House.
Both Obama and the first lady returned to their home state in recent weeks to campaign for Giannoulias, 34, whose bid bore echoes of the president's early political career. But Giannoulias's campaign was damaged when federal regulators seized his family's bank in connection with the real estate crisis.
Despite the broader outsider themes prevalent in 2010, Kirk, 51, emphasized his decade in the House and other previous government experience. It wasn't clear whether Kirk could prevail in blue-leaning Illinois, and he was hurt badly when he had to apologize for embellishing his military record over the years.
Exit polls showed that the negative tone of the race soured voters, with half saying that both candidates attacked each other unfairly.
SENATE Kentucky Rand Paul (R)
Paul cruises to a
tea party victory
The victory by Paul, the quasi-libertarian son of a mega-libertarian Texas congressman, delivered a blow to Democrats pining for a long-shot pickup in a red-leaning state. Paul's win also offers final consolation to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose handpicked candidate was trounced by Paul in the GOP primary.
All of that will be forgotten now that Paul is slated to take over the seat now occupied by contrarian Republican Sen. Jim Bunning.
The ophthalmologist from Bowling Green garnered national attention for his libertarian-leaning views, including raising questions about the Civil Rights Act, agricultural subsidies and anti-drug efforts.
Conway, the state's attorney general, cast himself as a "different kind of Democrat" while attacking Paul as an extremist. Conway also ran a controversial ad attacking Paul's ties to an anti-religious college group, a move that appeared to backfire.
Paul focused his campaign on criticism of President Obama and the Democratic agenda, blaming the party in power for the federal deficit and wasteful spending. "The president is taking us down the wrong path," he said this week.
Paul also benefited from a strong wave of spending by independent conservative groups, who out-spent those supporting Conway 2 to 1.
SENATE Ohio Rob Portman (R)
Bush insider Portman returns to Washington
For all the talk of outsider candidates this year, Rob Portman doesn't seem like someone who should cruise so easily to victory as the new U.S. senator from Ohio.
Portman is a former member of the House who served as budget director and U.S. trade representative under the George W. Bush administration. Now Portman will return to Washington after trouncing Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a race for the seat being vacated by Sen. George V. Voinovich (R).
The Democrat's candidacy against Portman never seemed to get off the ground, and it only got worse as Election Day got nearer, according to polling. Things got so bad at the end that Fisher donated his last $100,000 to the state's Democratic Party, effectively conceding the race.
Earlier in the campaign, Fisher and other Democrats tried to tar Portman for his ties to Bush's economic policies and the economic crash that followed.
But the accusations never seemed to take hold against Portman, a relatively soft-spoken campaigner far removed from the louder edges of GOP politics. Portman also repeatedly castigated Fisher and other Democrats for presiding over Ohio during the downturn, emphasizing the number of jobs lost in the state on their watch.
Portman has long been called a bright light in GOP politics and was considered as a vice presidential pick by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
SENATE Pennsylvania Pat Toomey (R)
Toomey wins back
seat for Republicans
Pat Toomey's persistence finally paid off.
The former House lawmaker and Club for Growth president defeated Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in one of the most bitter and costly Senate contests of the year, part of a GOP tsunami that swept over the Keystone State on Tuesday.
The victory means that a seat that was Democratic for less than two years will revert to GOP control, this time occupied by a much more conservative senator. Toomey will take over from arch-nemesis Arlen Specter, who switched parties last year.
The Toomey victory capped a truly tumultuous race. First, Toomey effectively forced Specter to abandon the Republican Party because of the strength of his looming primary challenge. (Toomey had failed to defeat Specter in 2004.)
Then, Specter was knocked off by Sestak in the Democratic primary, despite support for the incumbent from the White House. The chain of events made the seat vitally important to both parties in the battle for power in the Senate.
Toomey portrayed his opponent as a big-spending liberal who was bankrupting the country. Sestak, a retired Navy admiral who is giving up his seat in the House, portrayed Toomey as a lackey for corporate interests.
The race also attracted more money from outside groups than any other save the Senate contest in Colorado.
SENATE West Virginia Joe Manchin III (D)
Democrat Manchin wins race for Byrd's seat
West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin III offers one possible victory strategy for fellow Democrats: run against the Democrats.
Manchin beat Republican businessman John Raese for the U.S. Senate seat held for half a century by the late senator Robert C. Byrd (D). His strategy in part relied on distancing himself from many of the policies of President Obama and congressional Democrats, including opposition to recently passed health-care legislation and a pending cap-and-trade bill to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The approach proved highly popular in an Appalachian state where coal is king and the National Rifle Association is strong; Manchin attracted widespread notice for a television ad in which he blasted away at cap-and-trade legislation with a rifle.
Raese, a wealthy businessman whose holdings range from broadcast stations to asphalt plants, sought to cast Manchin as a potential "rubber stamp" for Obama's policies. Raese also made a flurry of appearances in recent weeks with GOP notables ranging from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
But Raese's criticism failed to gain enough traction with West Virginia voters, who generally give Manchin high marks for his leadership of the state during two fatal mine disasters.
SENATE Wisconsin Ron Johnson (R)
to GOP's Johnson
Feingold, a three-term incumbent, tried to escape the anti-Democratic surge this year by emphasizing his record as an iconoclast. He worked with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to fashion landmark campaign-finance legislation that bears his name and defied Democrats earlier this year by opposing Wall Street regulations as not tough enough.
But Johnson, a former plastics company owner whose candidacy caught fire in a series of tea party appearances, characterized Feingold as an out-of-step liberal. He also vowed to work to repeal President Obama's health-care legislation.
The irony of Feingold's campaign-finance activism hung heavy over the contest: The Democrat was pummeled with attack ads from conservative groups but he urged Democratic-leaning groups not to respond. Johnson also spent $7 million of his own money on the race.
Johnson's victory makes him the first Republican senator to represent Wisconsin in 18 years.
HOUSE Florida, District 8 Daniel Webster (R)
Liberal Grayson loses
his seat to Webster
Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, one of the loudest -- some would say most loudmouthed -- defenders of liberal causes in the House, was silenced by voters Tuesday.
Grayson lost his reelection bid to Republican challenger Daniel Webster, a longtime Florida state lawmaker.
The incumbent Democrat became nationally renowned for his boisterous and sometimes incendiary comments about Republican opponents, including one infamous speech on the House floor when he said the GOP health-care plan was for Americans to "die quickly."
Although the outbursts made him a hero to many liberals, Grayson was targeted early on by Republicans as a vulnerable candidate. His aggressive approach continued during the campaign, running ads calling Webster "Taliban Dan" and another likening Webster to a mafioso.
"It looks like Dan Webster is the next congressman from Orlando," Grayson said in conceding the race.
Webster said in a statement that the victory is vindication for his attempt to run a positive campaign.
"This is a new day for our country, and I am thankful to be a part of it," he said. "This is a huge victory for people who are tired of the politics of personal destruction."
HOUSE Missouri, District 4 Vicky Hartzler (R)
17-term Democrat Skelton loses to GOP's Hartzler
In a seemingly anti-incumbent year, you don't get much more incumbent than Ike Skelton.
Skelton, a centrist and pro-military Democrat who has represented Missouri's 4th District since 1977, was defeated for the first time in 18 races Tuesday as he fell victim to the GOP takeover of the House.
The race underscored the perils facing even the most entrenched Democrats this year as energized Republicans turned out in force, particularly in conservative districts.
The winning Republican is Vicky Hartzler, 50, a former home economics teacher and former state lawmaker. Hartzler sought to tie Skelton to the Democratic majority in a district that went overwhelmingly for GOP presidential candidate John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008.
The loss marks a dramatic fall for Skelton, 78, who had sought to distance himself from Democratic leaders in Washington. He voted against President Obama's health-care legislation and against legislation to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
In attempting to fend off Hartzler, Skelton focused almost exclusively on his record on military issues. But he suggested that he had trouble getting his message across.
"I have to point out what I have done," he said just before the election. "And I've been fortunate in doing some good things."
HOUSE Pennsylvania, District 8 Mike Fitzpatrick (R)
Fitzpatrick takes back
his seat from Murphy
Rep. Patrick Murphy, elected in the Democratic wave of 2006, got swept back out of office Tuesday in the Republican counterwave of 2010.
In Bucks County, outside Philadelphia, Murphy lost a rematch with Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, a one-term congressman who was defeated by Murphy in 2006. The race was cast by both sides as a referendum on the policies of President Obama, who won the district in 2008 by about 25,000 votes.
Murphy is among several dozen young House members who were propelled into office during the Democratic surge of the last two election cycles, many of them hailing from traditionally red-leaning districts. Many of these pioneers were then pushed out of office Tuesday.
A 36-year-old Iraq war veteran, Murphy was beloved by the White House for his strong support of many Obama priorities, including votes in favor of stimulus and health-care reform legislation. But Murphy also clearly realized the perils of incumbency this year: He identified himself in some ads as "a soldier for Bucks County" while labeling his opponent "Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick."
But the strategy didn't work: Fitzpatrick, 47, hammered Murphy for his ties to the Obama administration, blaming him and other Democrats for the sour economy, the federal budget deficit and other fiscal woes.