Democrats poised to retain control of Senate

ABC News and NBC News called Maine's Senate race for former Gov. Angus King, an independent.

With an apparent early pickup, Senate Democrats are poised to retain control of the chamber, positioning the Senate to function similarly in the 113th Congress or to become a lone Democratic bulwark against a Republican White House and House.

ABC News and NBC News called Maine's Senate race for former Gov. Angus King. King is an independent, and he has not said if he will caucus with either party. But both sides expect him to join the Democratic Caucus.

The fight for Senate control shifted sharply from 2011, as Republican ambitions of capturing a majority -- fueled by the 23-10 Democratic-to-GOP disparity in incumbents up for reelection -- gave way to GOP hopes of merely simply gaining seats. With superior recruiting, better candidates, and stronger party discipline, Senate Democrats went into Election Day with just one incumbent, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., without better than even odds of winning. Democrats have legitimate hopes of gaining Senate seats.

That would be a pill of bitter disappointment for Republicans and might generate internal backlash against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn of Texas over the party’s Senate-race strategy and tactics.

Still, Republicans have another good shot at winning Senate control in 2014, when 20 Democratic seats are in play versus 13 Republican ones. An Obama win would boost congressional GOP odds in the 2014 midterm elections.

If Obama wins tonight, he can bank on strong support for his tax and deficit plans from energized Senate Democrats -- at least next year. If Mitt Romney prevails, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and his conference look ready to block a GOP agenda at every chance. Reid on Friday called “laughable” Romney’s assertion that Senate Democrats would work with him on Republican proposals.

At least 10 new senators, and probably at least a few more, will be elected on Tuesday night. That continues a rapid pace of turnover in the body unmatched since the 1978 and 1980 elections. Senior members and committee leaders are departing, leaving large bodies of relatively new members yet to distinguish themselves. Gone next year will be Foreign Relations ranking member Richard Lugar, R-Ind., Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Energy Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., as well as long-serving Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas.