Democrats retain control of the Senate with Cortez Masto’s win in Nevada

without Catherine Cortez Masto, Democrat of Nevada, said her party will retain control of the Senate after defeating Republican Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general.

The race was called Saturday by the Associated Press. Meanwhile, control of the US House of Representatives USA remains very close to being called, underscoring how Democrats continue to beat expectations and deny GOP hopes of a sizable majority.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (DN.Y.) said the results were “a victory and a vindication” for his party, speaking at a hastily called news conference Saturday night in new york He credited the quality of Democratic candidates as well as the party’s legislative agenda and an electorate willing to reject “the anti-democratic and extremist MAGA Republicans.”

without  Catherine Cortez Masto waves at a rally in Las Vegas in front of a large American flag.

Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, shown at a campaign rally in North Las Vegas, defeated Republican Adam Laxalt to win re-election, ensuring her party will retain control of the Senate.

(John Locher/Associated Press)

“Contrast our candidates with some of the people they ran against. Our strong candidates beat some very flawed challengers who had no faith in democracy, no allegiance to truth or honor, and even when the polls looked bleak, our candidates they never gave up or lost faith,” Schumer said. “While the MAGA Republicans stoked fear and division, the Democrats were talking about how we deal with the issues that matter to the people.”

President Biden, with his party holding the Senate, retains the ability to confirm judicial nominees and cabinet secretaries.

The president received news of the Senate Democrats’ success while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he is attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

“I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next few years,” he said. He expressed the hope that his party will also claim the Chamber, but he recognized “it is a section in which everything has to fall our way”.

Ronald Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, celebrated on Twitter the number of seats the Democrats now hold – 50 – and 14 exclamation points.

Prominent Republicans met the news quietly Saturday night, at least publicly. Neither Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell nor Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, who heads the Republican Senate campaign arm, released a comment.

Keeping the Senate was seen as a slightly easier task for Democrats than keeping control of the House. National dynamics—such as presidential approval ratings and economic concerns—exert less force in state races; in 2018, for example, Republicans gained two seats in the Senate even as Democrats gained 40 seats to win control of the House.

Still, with high inflation and a disaffected electorate, the battle for control of the Senate has been a toss-up for much of the cycle. Democrats were buoyed by dominant fundraising and voter outrage after the Supreme Court overturned decades-old federal protections for abortion access, a reaction Schumer said was crucial to the party’s victories.

“Because the American people elected Democrats to the Senate, there is now a firewall against the threat of a nationwide abortion ban that so many Republicans have talked about,” Schumer said.

Democrats also benefited from Republican challengers who were popular among Trump supporters but less so among the general electorate.

Jessica Taylor, a Senate campaign analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, said she never imagined at the start of the cycle that Democrats could find themselves on the verge of winning a Senate seat.

“When we look at history and the current political climate and economic indicators, it’s amazing that the Democrats haven’t lost a single incumbent,” Taylor said.

Democrats will have a chance to build their majority next month in Georgia, when Sen. Raphael Warnock faces Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Warnock narrowly edged out Walker in Tuesday’s general election. But he failed to get more than 50% of the vote, forcing a second round according to state law.

Walker ran 5 percentage points behind the governor. Brian Kemp, a fellow Republican who made a successful re-election bid, noted a significant number of voters who supported the incumbent governor but not Walker.

Now that control of the Senate has been determined, it may be difficult for Walker to rally those voters to run, Taylor said.

“It’s a turnout, and the Republicans failed the turnout last time because of it [then-President] Trump was trying to overturn the results of the election,” Taylor said, noting the GOP’s loss of two Senate runoffs in Georgia after the 2020 election.

In Nevada, the race between Laxalt and Cortez Masto, seen as the Senate’s most vulnerable Democrat heading into Tuesday’s midterm elections, came down to the slimmest of margins. The contest was so close in part because the state’s voters are so divided between the two major parties. Democrats had a record lead of less than 4 percentage points over Republicans as of November. 1.

On paper, Nevada looks like a solid blue state. All but one of his state offices are held by Democrats; the party has majorities in both state legislative chambers and its congressional delegation. Democratic presidential candidates have won the state since 2008, when Barack Obama won by double digits.

But the Democrats’ streak in Nevada belies the nature of many of their victories. Powered by the vaunted “Reid machine” — the political turnout operation built by the late Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, the state’s longest-serving senator — Nevada only narrowly tilted in the party’s direction in the 2016 and 2020 presidential races. Cortez Masto won his first term in 2016 by less than 3 percentage points.

Democrats have relied on working-class voters of color, especially union members, to shore up their margins in an upcoming election. But the party’s struggles to win over people without college degrees, and a rightward drift among Latino voters, made Nevada a particularly challenging terrain.

The state’s workforce is transient, and many constituents’ livelihoods depend on visitors eating, drinking, gambling and enjoying themselves on and around the Las Vegas Strip, a tourism industry that has yet to fully recover from be reduced by the pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate and gas prices remain among the highest in the nation.

Democrats across the country, including Cortez Masto, campaigned on the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down abortion rights nationwide earlier this year. But relative to other states, concerns about the issue may have been more muted in Nevada, where voters in 1990 codified into state law the right to abortion up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Cortez Masto, 58, a former state attorney general, is the daughter of a four-term Clark County commissioner. She made history in 2016 as the first Latina elected to the Senate.

Laxalt, 44, is a former state attorney general who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018. The grandson of a Nevada governor and senator who was a confidant of President Reagan, Laxalt co-chaired Trump’s 2020 campaign in the state. Trump campaigned with him in November. 5.

“This is another place where we’ve seen Trump have the most impact,” Taylor said, noting that Laxalt was part of the legal team that tried to help the former president overturn the results of the 2020 election.

Trump is also poised to plan an upcoming runoff, sparking a possible announcement for a 2024 presidential bid next week.

Electoral denial was unpopular with Nevada voters; Jim Marchant, the Republican secretary of state nominee who was among the most vocal purveyors of voting conspiracies, lost to Democrat Cisco Aguilar, the AP reported Saturday night.

But Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo successfully defeated Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak.

Although Lombardo has been endorsed by Trump and has appeared with him at rallies, he has also tried to distance himself from the former president at times, describing him as a “sane president” in a debate after refusing to call Trump “great.”

Lombardo’s position as sheriff of Clark County, the state’s population center, also allowed him to run a more crime-focused campaign, an issue that has been highlighted by Republican candidates across the country.

Times writers Nolan D. McCaskill in Washington and Hannah Fry in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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