Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her Senate runoff race Saturday night, felled by the red tide that’s swept the South and ties to an unpopular President that she couldn’t shake. Landrieu’s Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy won easily meaning Republicans have picked up nine Senate seats this election cycle and will have control of 54 seats in the chamber next year.
Once seen as Democrats’ strongest incumbent, Landrieu ended up such a long-shot in her runoff with Cassidy that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cut its investment in the state, a move that Landrieu decried as leaving “a soldier on the field.”
In her concession speech, Landrieu touted her own “record of courage, honesty and integrity and delivering for the state when it mattered the most.”
The senator also said she didn’t regret her vote for Obamacare, which the GOP used to attack her and every other vulnerable Democratic senator this cycle.
“This is something to be proud of, and I’m glad we fought for it,” she said, touting some of the benefits of the law.
“Shake it Off,” Taylor Swift’s pop anthem to moving past defeat and ignoring critics, played as Landrieu hugged the staff and family members gathered on the stage.
And tears could be seen throughout the crowd as the event wound down on Saturday night.
An energetic Cassidy, meanwhile, opened his victory speech with a surprised, “whoa!” He told his supporters his win was the “exclamation point” on the declaration that “we want our country to go in a conservative direction,” which was made with the GOP’s resounding wins on Nov. 4.
He was introduced at his victory party by GOP Sen. David Vitter, who endorsed the congressman and has been active in the race for him. And Cassidy was joined on stage by his onetime GOP foe in the race, retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness, who ran as a conservative alternative to him during the first round of voting but endorsed him in the runoff.
Landrieu ran hard through the very end, insisting even Saturday morning, outside the school where she cast her ballot, that there was still a shot.
Landrieu’s campaign pitch centered around her clout in the Senate, and what she can do for the state in Washington. But that argument lost much of its potency on Nov. 4, when Democrats lost the Senate and Landrieu could no longer tout a committee chairmanship.
And Landrieu was never able to effectively localize the race and distance herself from the president, while Republicans tied her to him at every opportunity.
Indeed, even Landrieu’s supporters seemed to know it was over before Election Night.
Cassidy ran a largely error-free, if exceptionally safe, campaign. He held infrequent campaign stops during the runoff and stayed entirely out of the state for the final week of the runoff, returning only for a Monday debate and two rallies Friday.
The Republican National Committee had around 300 staffers in the state and used the runoff period as a testing ground for field and data methods. Republicans wanted, they said, to put an “exclamation mark” on their wins on Nov. 4.
Republicans matched their party’s post-World War II record for most House seats held Saturday night by retaining two Louisiana constituencies also in runoff votes.
The GOP holds 246 seats, compared to 188 for Democrats, with one race, in Arizona’s 2nd District, still outstanding. The 246 seats match the total the GOP had in 1947-49 when Harry S. Truman occupied the White House.
In the midterm election rout, House Republicans prevailed on Democratic turf, netting 12 seats and winning in New York, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire and Iowa. Republican challengers knocked out long-term Democratic incumbents in Georgia and West Virginia, seats that the GOP now could hold for generations as the party maintains its stranglehold on the South.
The GOP had entered the Nov. 4 midterm elections with a 234-201 edge. Democrats had held out hope of minimizing their losses despite Obama’s low popularity and historic losses for the party occupying the White House. Democrats did manage to win three Republican-held seats in California, Florida and Nebraska, but Republicans had far greater success around the country.
Obama suffered an ignominious distinction. His party lost 63 seats in 2010 and then 12 more this year, and he is now the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, edging past Truman’s 74.
There’s still an automatic recount in a Democratic-held district in the Tucson, Arizona-area. Rep. Ron Barber trails Republican challenger Martha McSally by fewer than 200 voters.
If McSally wins, Republicans would have 247 seats, the largest majority since 1929-31 when the GOP controlled 270 seats in President Herbert Hoover’s administration.