U.S. Senate race: McConnell set to become next majority leader after GOP wins six seats in U.S. Senate races

11/04/2014 06:21 PM

11:50 p.m. — Kentucky U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell may fulfill a campaign promise hours after handily winning reelection against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes as he looks poised to become the next majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

The Associated Press reports Republican Thom Tillis has defeated Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan in North Carolina, giving the GOP the six seats it needs to wrest control of the chamber from Democrats.

Republicans won seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota, according to The Associated Press.

McConnell had made his potential ascent to majority leader a central theme of his reelection campaign against Grimes.

11:30 p.m. WITH VIDEO — Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer sees some positive signs for his gubernatorial race after U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s double-digit win over Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Tuesday’s results show Kentucky voters “overwhelmingly rejected the policies of the Democrat Party on the federal and, in many cases, on the state level all across the state.”

“I think it was a good indicator tonight that Republicans are going to be doing well in Kentucky for many years to come,” Comer said.

Regardless of his party’s inability to take control of the state House, Comer said McConnell’s showing proves Republicans will do well on a statewide level in 2015. And the U.S. Senate race may have hurt Grimes’ appeal as a Democratic gubernatorial candidate, he said.

“I will tell you, I did not foresee Mitch McConnell winning by double digits tonight,” Comer said. “It was a very bad night for Alison Grimes. A lot of people had mentioned her as a potential gubernatorial candidate. She so underperformed tonight that I don’t think her name will even be relevant in the governor’s race anymore.”

10:40 p.m. WITH VIDEO — State Senate Majority Floor Leader said President Barack Obama should be put on notice by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s reelection.

Thayer didn’t stop at Obama, though, saying Democrats “up and down the ballot” should pay attention as well.

“We don’t agree with his policies, they’re not working, and we want to try something new with Mitch McConnell at the helm,” Thayer said. “And I do think that we are making as Kentuckians, we are making Democrats up and down the ballot pay for being a member of the same party as Barack Obama.”

Thayer said nationalizing the race proved effective because Kentuckians have grown weary of the Obama economy as well as the loss of thousands of coal jobs.

“I think people are just sick and tired,” he said.

9:00 p.m. UPDATED WITH VICTORY SPEECH — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell shared the stage with his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, to celebrate his reelection, promising “to turn this country around” in Washington, D.C.

“Some things don’t change after tonight,” McConnell said. “I don’t expect the president to wake up tomorrow and view the world any differently than he did when he woke up this morning. He knows I won’t either.”

McConnell had nationalized his race against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, frequently jabbing at the president on the campaign trail, particularly regarding environmental regulations and the Affordable Care Act.

But he noted the two sides must work together “on issues where we can agree.”

“I think we have a duty to do that,” he said. “Just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict. I think I’ve shown that to be true in critical times in the past. I hope the president gives me the chance to show it again.”

Still, McConnell struck a common chord heard throughout his reelection bid.

“Friends, this experiment in big government has lasted long enough,” he said. “It’s time to go in a new direction. It’s time to turn this country around, and I will not let you down.”

McConnell said Grimes earned his respect, saying she showed “a lot of guts to take on a race like this.”

“I admire her willingness to step into the arena and fight as hard as she did,” McConnell said. “We need more people who are willing to do that, not fewer.”

8:25 p.m. — Before Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the stage in victory, his wife, former U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao took the stage and said, “The outpouring of enthusiasm and support for my husband has been absolutely overwhelming.”

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who barnstormed with McConnell on Monday, called the election results “a repudiation of Barack Obama.”

McConnell is giving his victory speech.

8:20 p.m. WITH VIDEO OF GRIMES CONCESSION SPEECH Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes met a somber but cheering crowd after conceding the race to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a race The Associated Press called at 7:05 p.m.

“While tonight didn’t bring us the result that we had hoped for, this journey, the fight for you, it was worth it,” Grimes told the crowd. “I will continue to fight for the commonwealth of Kentucky each and every day.”

Grimes may have alluded to a potential gubernatorial bid, saying she plans to “keep this amazing organization that we have built together intact to fight for a brighter and better future.”

“We deserve that,” she said.

7:30 p.m. WITH VIDEO — State Senate President Robert Stivers has a good idea of what to expect in the U.S. Senate should U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell ascend to the chamber’s majority leader — a double-team with U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers against the Obama administration.

Stivers called McConnell and Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, “a strong one-two punch”

“I think what you will see is are those people who have waged this war on behalf of the Obama administration will not have monies to wage that war,” Stivers said.

7:15 p.m. WITH VIDEO — Before the race was called, Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway said Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes did “great” in her campaign to unseat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I sailed into the face of about $25 million five years ago and I remember what it felt like,” Conway said. “It’s not easy.

“… She really handled the spotlight very well. She stayed composed. She was a very disciplined candidate, which I think is good.”

Conway said he and Grimes discussed their political futures when asked about her potential bid for governor. Conway, thus far, is the only Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the field.

“I’d be very surprised if she did that,” he said.

7:10 p.m. — Cheers broke out in the GOP Election Night event as the TV flashed the AP’s call of the race for McConnell at 7:05 p.m. EST.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said an early call for McConnell is a harbinger of good things to come for Republicans.

“It shows the voters of Kentucky have overwhelmingly rejected the politics of the Democratic Party, both nationally and on the state level,” Comer said, adding that it bodes well for the GOP candidates in state House races and next year’s governor’s race in which he’s a candidate.

State House candidate Jerry Miller of Louisville, when told of the AP’s calling of the race, said he expects McConnell will run up a bigger margin than 2008.

“This is being called on the Eastern Time Zone results, so I think we’re going to do even better in the western part of the state,” Miller said.

6:02 p.m. — At the Louisville Marriott East where U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell and Kentucky Republicans dignitaries are spending Election Night, several top GOP operatives made the early rounds through press row.

Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson told Pure Politics that McConnell “could very well” defeat Grimes by a wider margin than the 5.8 points in which he beat Democrat Bruce Lunsford in 2008. Part of the reason he expects McConnell to solidly win Tuesday is because the McConnell campaign and outside groups — chiefly the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition — waged an aggressive ad campaign that lowered Kentuckians’ opinion of Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

At the same time, McConnell’s favorability numbers — a possible weakness at the start of the race — didn’t continue to drop.

The Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a 501c(4) nonprofit group, has spent more than $20 million in TV ads, confirmed Scott Jennings, the group’s chairman. The total spending for the group for TV ads, direct mail and online ads could climb toward $30 million.

Aside from Robertson and Jennings, other prominent Republicans who already have strolled through the Marriott’s ballroom include state Senate President Robert Stivers, McConnell’s state director Terry Carmack, former McConnell chief-of-staff-turned-D.C.-lobbyist Billy Piper and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul’s state director Jim Milliman.

Reporting by Ryan Alessi with video by Bradley McKee from the Republican Party of Kentucky’s Election Night event. Reporting by Don Weber with video by Greg Pursifull at U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’ Election Night event in Lexington. Check back for additional updates.


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