WASHINGTON -- Democrats closed in on keeping their majority in the Senate, swiping Republican-held Senate seats in Indiana and Massachusetts on Tuesday and keeping a once vulnerable seat in Missouri.
Republican candidates' clumsy comments on rape and abortion proved to be the party's undoing in two of the races. The Democratic gains meant the GOP had to run the table in remaining open Senate seats in Wisconsin, North Dakota, Nebraska and New Mexico, but they trailed in three.
Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly edged out tea party-backed Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock in a race rocked by the Republican candidate's awkward remark that pregnancy resulting from rape is "something God intended."
Mourdock also upset some Indiana voters for his decision to sue to stop the federal auto bailout of Chrysler, which means jobs building transmissions to thousands in Kokomo. And he alienated some in his own party with his divisive win over six-term Sen. Richard Lugar in the May GOP primary. Lugar refused to campaign for him.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren knocked out Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who had stunned the political world in January 2010 when he won the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat. The strong Democratic tilt in the state and President Barack Obama's easy win over former Gov. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts helped the consumer advocate in her bid.
The race was one of the most expensive in the country - $68 million - even though both candidates agreed to bar outside spending.
In Missouri, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill was considered the most vulnerable incumbent, but Republican Rep. Todd Akin severely damaged his candidacy in August when he said women's bodies have ways of avoiding pregnancy in instances of "legitimate rape." GOP leaders, including Romney, called on him to abandon the race. Akin stayed in.
In Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine edged out Republican George Allen in a battle of former governors. The contest attracted millions of dollars in outside spending.
Democrats currently hold a 53-47 edge in the Senate, including the two independents who caucus with them. Republicans needed a net of four seats to grab the majority, three if Republican Mitt Romney wins the presidency. Shortly, after 11 p.m., they had at least 50 seats, enough to keep control of President Barack Obama wins re-election.
The caustic campaign for control of the Senate in a divided Congress was marked by endless negative ads and more than $1 billion in spending by outside groups on races from Virginia to Montana, Florida to New Mexico. The outcome in Ohio and Virginia was closely linked to the presidential race. Republicans and Democrats in Massachusetts, North Dakota and Montana hoped that energetic campaigns and personality would lead to ticket-splitting by voters
In Maine, independent Angus King prevailed over Republican Charlie Summers and Democrat Cynthia Dill in the race to replace Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, who blamed partisan gridlock in Washington for her unexpected decision to retire after 18 years in the Senate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wasted no time, reaching out to King, according to a Senate aide.