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The 2012 elections will go down as a victory for Democrats, who held the White House and control of the Senate, even as the party appeared likely to pick up only a handful of seats in the House.
Success on Tuesday would be defined by what happened in the presidential contest, and President Barack Obama won a convincing re-election over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
Obama carried every swing state except for North Carolina, which was one of only two states that he won in 2008 that did not go his way again this year. Florida was the only state yet to be called by Wednesday morning, though the president held a lead of 46,039 votes there with 100 percent of precincts reporting. He had already topped 300 electoral votes, and only needed 270 electoral votes to win.
“Tonight, despite all the hardship we’ve been through, despite all the frustrations of Washington, I’ve never been more hopeful about our future,” Obama said in his victory speech in Chicago. “I have never been more hopeful about America.”
The takeaway for many of the pundits Tuesday night was that the Republican Party needed to broaden its appeal as it begins working toward future electoral success. This election cycle marked the first time that Hispanics accounted for at least 10 percent of the electorate, and 71 percent voted for Obama. The president also carried young voters, ages 18-29, with 60 percent.
He added, “The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them. I look forward to working on these goals with my new and returning colleagues in Congress and hope the president will get behind our efforts.”
In the Senate, Democrats may have actually added to their majority, a remarkable feat given the chips stacked against the party at the outset of the cycle. Democrats held just a 53-47 majority and were defending 23 seats to only 10 for Republicans. Their majority in the 113th Congress will be no smaller than that. Democrats picked up GOP-held seats in Massachusetts and Indiana, and Senator-elect Angus King (I-Maine) is considered likely to caucus with Democrats. Republicans, however, have only picked up one Democratic held seat so far, in Nebraska.
Two races remained outstanding early Wednesday morning. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) held a small lead over Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) with about two-thirds of precincts reporting. And former North Dakota Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp (D) led by just 1 point over Rep. Rick Berg (R). Both close races took place in states Romney won by double digits.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) said in a statement that with the party’s losses in the White House and Senate, “We have a period of reflection and recalibration ahead for the Republican Party.”
In the House, Democrats had gained only a few seats, far from their goal of netting the 25 seats needed for a majority. Several races across the country had not been called on Wednesday morning, and Democrats were likely to pick up a few more seats in California alone. But Republicans were never at risk of losing their grip on the House.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) spun the results as a positive night for Democrats.
“Despite Republicans’ predictions that they would significantly expand their majority after the wave that swept them in power, like Democrats did in 2008, we didn’t let it happen,” Israel said in a statement.
Meredith Shiner contributed to this report.