Friday August 7th, 2020 5:39AM

GOP aims to keep Senate control, aided by Trump-friendly map

By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans fought to retain Senate control for two more years in Tuesday's voting and renew their role as guardians of President Donald Trump's conservative agenda, hoping a lopsided electoral map that imperiled far more Democratic seats would offset Trump's deeply divisive effect on voters.

As polls began closing, Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders was easily re-elected on a night when several potential 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls seemed certain to win new Senate terms.

Initial vote counts were too tight to call a pivotal race in Indiana, where Republicans hoped to oust moderate Sen. Joe Donnelly and either pad their slender Senate majority or offset possible Democratic gains elsewhere.

Democrats' longshot prospects for capturing a Senate majority were pinned on expectations that their supporters, roused by revulsion toward Trump, would surge to the polls. Fueling their intensity has been Trump's anti-immigration rhetoric and policies, his efforts to dismantle health care protections enacted under President Barack Obama and the #MeToo movement's fury over sexual harassment.

"Ever since President Trump has been in office, it has just been not the country that I am used to or that I thought I would be in," said Sarah Roth, 22, a Democratic voter from Minnetonka, Minnesota. "And so this really was my opportunity to help this country in changing who is making the decisions."

Democrats also had history on their side: 2002 was the only midterm election in the past three decades when the party holding the White House gained Senate seats.

Yet while Republicans command the Senate only narrowly, 51-49, Democrats faced daunting political math: They and their two independent allies were defending 26 of the 35 seats in play.

Around a dozen races from New Jersey to Nevada were seen as coin flips or at least competitive, prompting each side to spend hundreds of millions of dollars. Any increased in the GOP's majority was likely to be only modest.

With Democrats considered a good bet to grab House control from Republicans, keeping the Senate was seen as crucial for the GOP's goals of tax and spending cuts, trade, immigration restrictions, curbs on Obama's health care law and judicial nominations.

With so much at stake, Trump campaigned in over a dozen states with Senate elections since Labor Day, visiting some multiple times. He himself has characterized the election as a referendum on his presidency.

Health care was considered the key issue in Tuesday's election by 26 percent of voters, with immigration mentioned by 23 percent, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate conducted by The Associated Press.

Democrats needed to gain two Senate seats to win a majority, assuming all their incumbents were re-elected, an unlikely outcome. But they had a plausible chance of winning GOP-held seats only in Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas.

The 26 seats Democrats were protecting included 10 in states that Trump won in the 2016 presidential race, five of those by an enormous 19 percentage points or more.

In those 10 Trump-won states, Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota seemed at greatest peril of losing. Other Democrats fighting for political survival included Missouri's Claire McCaskill, Indiana's Donnelly and Bill Nelson of Florida. Nelson, 76, faced outgoing GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who poured over $50 million of his own fortune into his campaign, the most in the U.S.

In a sign that Trump dominance two years ago isn't necessarily fatal for Democrats, their incumbents were expected to win re-election in six other states that he carried. Montana Sen. Jon Tester faced the toughest battle of that group, while moderate Joe Manchin, a former governor and brand name in West Virginia, was increasingly seen as safe in a state Trump took by 42 percentage points.

Trump's racially tinged anti-immigrant appeals could hurt Republican candidates in swing states like Arizona and Nevada where college-educated voters could be decisive, but his rhetoric could help in deeply conservative areas.

"I believe he values immigration, but he wants to make sure we're safe," said Tina Newby of Wetland, Michigan, a GOP voter. "I like the fact that he is not a politician, and I forgive some of the socially incorrect or politically incorrect things that he says."

Amid the recent rash of letter bombs and the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, Trump issued alarming and often unfounded warnings about caravans of migrants crossing Mexico toward the U.S., blaming Democrats, without evidence, for the threat he claimed they pose.

In battlegrounds where Democrats were thought to have chances to gain seats, first-term Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen was in a close contest with Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, the only Republican seeking re-election in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton won in the 2016 presidential race. Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a darling of progressives from coast to coast, raised record contributions but faced long odds of ousting tea party Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.

Democrats also had opportunities because of the retirements of GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Tennessee's Bob Corker, both leaving Congress after accusing Trump of dishonesty and questioning his competence.

Republicans had another pickup opportunity in New Jersey, where Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, who saw federal prosecutors drop bribery charges against him in January after a mistrial, faced wealthy pharmaceutical executive Bob Hugin.

There was a strong chance Mississippi's special election to complete the unexpired term of retired GOP Sen. Thad Cochran would go to a late November runoff. Republicans who dominate the state would probably prevail, but waiting for the outcome could extend the uncertainty about the Senate's party breakdown — and perhaps which side has control.

AP VoteCast is a nationwide survey of more than 120,000 voters and nonvoters conducted for the AP by NORC at the University of Chicago.


AP reporters Jeff Baenen in Minnetonka, Minnesota, and John Flesher in Traverse City, Michigan, contributed.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Presidential Election News, General Senate Election News
© Copyright 2020
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Battle for the House tests Trump, GOP hold on Congress
The battle for the House is becoming a fight to the finish, as Democrats try to flip the majority
2:04PM ( 14 minutes ago )
Voters face long lines, machine snafus, 'mosh pit' crowds
Voters are running into long lines and machine snafus at polling places on Election Day
2:03PM ( 15 minutes ago )
GOP aims to keep Senate control, aided by Trump-friendly map
Republicans are aiming at keeping their hold on the Senate in a campaign that's been dominated by President Donald Trump
2:02PM ( 15 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Facebook blocks 115 accounts ahead of US midterm elections
Facebook blocks 115 accounts for suspected "coordinated inauthentic behavior" linked to foreign groups attempting to interfere in U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday
1:24PM ( 53 minutes ago )
Fox News doesn't condone Hannity appearance with Trump
Fox News says it does not condone any of its journalists appearing in a campaign event, hours after prime-time host Sean Hannity spoke at President Trump's final rally before the midterm election
1:22PM ( 56 minutes ago )
Trump to spend Election Day out of public eye
Trump to stay out of public view after asking voters to help preserve 'fragile' GOP victories
1:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP National News
Reports of long lines, broken machines as voters go to polls
There were reports across the U.S. on Tuesday about long lines and malfunctioning machines at polling places from coast-to-coast, especially in Georgia, where some voters reported waiting up to three hours to vote.
12:19PM ( 1 hour ago )
Election pits Trump's incendiary politics vs Dem resistance
Voters across America are casting the final ballots of the first nationwide election of Donald Trump's presidency
11:58AM ( 2 hours ago )
Utah mayor slain in Afghanistan urged Americans to vote
A Utah mayor and National Guard major slain by a trainee in Afghanistan had urged Americans to vote and seek unity, 'whether the Republicans or Democrats win'
11:44AM ( 2 hours ago )
Top General short headlines
The Latest: Broken scanners plague NYC polling places
Reports of broken ballot scanners are leading to long lines at several polling sites across New York City
1:26PM ( 54 minutes ago )
The Latest: Border Patrol cancels Election Day 'exercise'
The U.S. Border Patrol has canceled a "crowd control exercise" in Texas following criticism from civil liberties groups that it could dissuade people from voting
1:20PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Florida polling place on lockdown over gun scare
A Florida polling place has been put on lockdown for about 40 minutes after a man with a gun was reported in a nearby parking lot.
12:40PM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
"In a sense, I am on the ticket," Trump seeks voter support
"In a sense, I am on the ticket": Ahead of Election Day, Trump asks supporters to get out and vote
5:58AM ( 8 hours ago )
WHAT TO WATCH: Voters to go polls to weigh in on Trump era
WHAT TO WATCH: On Election Day, voters render judgment on Donald Trump's turbulent presidency
5:39AM ( 8 hours ago )
Ted Cruz hopes to secure 2nd term vs. rising star O'Rourke
Beto O'Rourke has already used his Texas Senate run against Ted Cruz to become a national Democratic phenomenon, shatter fundraising records and trigger whispers about 2020
2:53AM ( 11 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
UK regulator calls for tougher rules on personal data use
Britain's data regulator is calling for tougher rules on the use of personal data by political campaigns around the world.
11:11AM ( 3 hours ago )
UK data commissioner fines pro-Brexit groups
The U.K. data commissioner has fined a campaign backing Britain's departure from the European Union and an insurance company founded by its millionaire backer a total of 135,000 pounds ($176,000) for breaches of data laws
7:44AM ( 6 hours ago )
Voting officials under scrutiny amid heavy election turnout
State, local voting officials under scrutiny as Election Day dawns after the early voting period revealed myriad problems in several states
6:01AM ( 8 hours ago )
AP Elections
The Latest: Protesters interrupt Trump rally in Indiana
President Donald Trump has been interrupted multiple times by protesters during his Indiana rally on his final midterm sprint
7:15PM ( 19 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump urges voters to keep his movement going
President Donald Trump is urging Republicans to turn out for the midterm elections in order to keep his "political movement going."
4:19PM ( 22 hours ago )
The Latest: Ivanka Trump joins president at Ohio rally
First daughter Ivanka Trump is joining her father during his final campaign blitz before the midterm elections
3:32PM ( 22 hours ago )
General Presidential Election News
Fractious Arizona Senate race heads into final hours
Republican Rep. Martha McSally barnstormed rural Arizona on Monday while Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema dashed around Phoenix as the congresswomen tried to drum up every last vote in the final day of their tight U.S. Senate race.
7:51PM ( 18 hours ago )
Texas turnout high as Cruz, O'Rourke end close Senate race
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Democratic Congressman Beto O'Rourke are working their way home at the end of one of the most closely watched races of the 2018 midterms
3:52PM ( 22 hours ago )
The Latest: Trump urges supporters to vote, knocks media
President Donald Trump is imploring his supporters to vote on Tuesday, saying the media will treat the midterm results as a referendum on his presidency
11:45AM ( 1 day ago )
General Senate Election News
Battle for the House tests Trump, GOP hold on Congress
The battle for the House is becoming a fight to the finish, as Democrats try to flip the majority
2:04PM ( 20 minutes ago )
Voters face long lines, machine snafus, 'mosh pit' crowds
Voters are running into long lines and machine snafus at polling places on Election Day
2:03PM ( 21 minutes ago )
Governors' races feature fight for party control in states
Democrats were trying to pull a little closer to even in elections Tuesday for governors and lawmakers who could play an important role in shaping the political battlefield for a decade to come
2:02PM ( 22 minutes ago )
States to decide marijuana, Medicaid, redistricting measures
Election Day will decide fate of intriguing statewide ballot measures, including ones seeking to legalize marijuana, boost the minimum wage and overturn civil rights protections for transgender people
1:44PM ( 39 minutes ago )
Iran officials mock, warn US over renewed sanctions
US sanctions list on Iran draws mockery from Iranian officials for including mothballed Boeing 747s, long-closed bank
1:44PM ( 40 minutes ago )