Republicans win control of US Senate in blow to Obama

‏Mark Wilson, AFP | Capitol Hill

Republicans captured a majority in the US Senate on Tuesday in a sweeping midterm election victory that delivers a sharp rebuke to President Barack Obama's Democrats.


With crucial wins in North Carolina and Iowa, the Republican Party picked up seven Senate seats to claim a majority in the 100-seat upper chamber, TV networks said.

As results trickled in, Republicans were expected to control at least 52 Senate seats after also defeating Democratic incumbents in Montana, Colorado, West Virginia, South Dakota and Arkansas.

The outcome of the elections suggested Obama would face a tougher final two years in office, complicated by greater Republican power, and influence in Washington.

"This is what tends to happen two years before the end of a presidency," said FRANCE 24's Washington correspondent, Philip Crowther. "Any incumbent president will get punished."

Speaking soon after the results were announced, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said the elections were an indictment of the president.

"This campaign wasn't about me or my opponent, it was all about a government that people no longer trust to carry out its basic duties," McConnell declared upon securing a sixth term as Kentucky senator.

Key Republican wins

The veteran Republican beat Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in a race that had looked extremely close until McConnell pulled ahead in the polls in recent days.

In Arkansas, Republican challenger Tom Cotton defeated Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor, despite frantic get-out-the-vote efforts by former President Bill Clinton, who hails from Arkansas.

Along with Cotton, Republicans Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia, Mike Rounds in South Dakota, Cory Gardner in Colorado and Steve Daines in Montana also won.

‘Republicans won pretty much everything there was to win’

In some good news for the Democrats, incumbent senator Jeanne Shaheen won re-election in New Hampshire, according to projections by both ABC and NBC, beating back an aggressive campaign from Republican Scott Brown and helping Democratic efforts to keep their Senate majority.

Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana forced her tough re-election fight into a runoff against Republican Bill Cassidy in Louisiana in December.

Obama’s low job approval rating, partisan gridlock in Washington and a US economy that is not growing broadly enough to help many in the middle class were major issues confronting voters in elections for 36 senators, 36 state governors and all 435 members of the House of Representatives.

With Republicans controlling the Senate, McConnell will replace Democrat Harry Reid as Senate majority leader, putting him in a powerful position on Capitol Hill.

Dramatic shift

Seizing the Senate gives Republicans control of both chambers of Congress, constituting the most dramatic political shift since Obama entered the White House in early 2009.

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives were up for grabs on Tuesday, with Republicans poised to add 10 or more seats to the 233 they already controlled, thereby accumulating their biggest majority since the late 1940s.

The shake-up in Congress means the president may have to make more concessions to his Republican opponents than he would have wished.

Obama had been expected to take executive action on issues like climate change and immigration reform, bypassing Congress.

But analysts have cast doubt on his ability to push through deeply divisive policies, such as plans to defer deportations for undocumented immigrants.

“He’s going to be looking for a couple of issues where the Republicans just want to give a little,” said Laurie Dundon of the Truman National Defence Project, in an interview with FRANCE 24.

Dundon said a weakened Obama may be able to work with a Republican Congress on expanding free trade deals, “but he won’t be able to touch toxic issues like immigration.”

A Reuters/Ipsos poll published ahead of the vote showed 75 percent of respondents believe the administration needs to “rethink” how it approaches major issues facing the United States.

Some 64 percent said Obama should replace some of his senior staff after the election.


Daily newsletterReceive essential international news every morning