Democrats have kept control of the Senate after the crucial race in Nevada was announced in their favor, cementing a midterms election performance for the party that widely beat expectations.
Democratic US senator Catherine Cortez Masto has now beaten Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump, the Associated Press said.
With Masto’s victory coming on the heels of Democratic senator Mark Kelly winning re-election in Arizona late on Friday, the win takes the Democrats to the crucial number of 50 seats in the Senate, with the Republicans at 49. The race in Georgia is set to go to a runoff in December, but even if Republicans win there, a 50-50 split means the Senate would effectively be controlled by the Democrats because the tying vote falls to the vice-president, Kamala Harris.
For the Republicans, it was another blow after they steeply underperformed in many races. The party had touted hopes of a “red wave” that could sweep across the US and deliver the upper chamber of Congress into their hands. Instead – with a few exceptions, such as Florida – the wave was more of a trickle.
The Democrat win in the Senate is likely to prompt further recrimination in Republican circles over who is to blame for the poor showing. Much attention has so far focused on Trump after he backed rightwing or celebrity candidates in several key races who lost, such as Dr Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.
The victory is also another boost for president Joe Biden after his party defied immediate fears that his low popularity ratings and an electorate battered by high inflation would translate to punishment at the polls. The Democrats also defied historical precedent, as the party holding the White House often loses heavily in midterm elections.
The election performance is likely to quiet speculation that Biden may duck out of the 2024 presidential race and leave office after a single term. Now he can point to solid pieces of domestic legislation in his first years as president, as well as a strong midterms performance, in order to bolster internal support in his party.
Biden said he was incredibly pleased with the turnout in the US election and said the Republican party would now need to decide “who they are”. Speaking to reporters in Cambodia ahead of an East Asia Summit, Biden said his focus was on the Georgia Senate race.
The loss of the Senate will focus minds sharply on Trump’s ongoing dominance of the Republican party. Fissures have opened up, with some prominent Republican figures openly appealing to Trump not to announce a 2024 run, as he is widely expected to do next week.
Trump himself has lashed out at popular Republican figures who may rival him, such as the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who was a rare Republican success in the midterms as he easily won re-election and flipped several once strong Democrat districts, especially in Miami.