Democrats who feared that they might lose the Senate breathed a sigh of relief Tuesday, as Gov. Joe Manchin appeared set to retain Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat in West Virginia for the party.
Manchin held off Republican John Raese in a close race that in all likelihood put a Senate takeover out of reach for Republicans. Fox News and other TV networks called the race for Manchin an hour after polls closed.
Republicans could still come close to the 10 pickups they needed to take control of the Senate, but without West Virginia they almost certainly cannot get to 10.
Manchin managed to pull out a win only after going so far as to shoot one of President Obama’s pieces of legislation with a rifle in a campaign ad that coincided with a major swing in momentum his way two weeks ago. He had been trailing Raese.
It was all part of a strong push by the Democrat to distance himself from the president and his policies, most notably the health care overhaul that passed in March and the cap and trade bill that passed by the House but stalled in the Senate.
Also in West Virginia, Rep. Nick Rahall, who has represented southern West Virginia in the state’s 3rd district for 34 years, looked like he would defeat Republican Elliott Maynard. His victory was thought to be a nearly sure thing, but a loss would have signaled catastrophic and possibly unprecedented losses for Democrats.
Elsewhere in the House, however, the indications were that Democratic losses could be enormous.
In southern Virginia, Democrat Rick Boucher lost to Republican Morgan Griffith. The loss of Virginia’s 9 district is a sign that GOP gains in the House could reach 70 or higher, according to the New York Times’ Nate Silver projection model.
Rep. Tom Perriello, the candidate who President Obama campaigned for in Virginia’s 5th district on Friday as a sign of his gratefulness for supportive votes in the House, also lost to Republican Robert Hurt.
Rep. Gerry Connolly was locked in a tight race with Republican Keith Fimian in Virginia’s 11th district, an area of the Northern Virginia suburbs just outside Washington, D.C. that is strongly Democratic.
And in North Carolina, Rep. Heath Shuler, the conservative Democrat from the state’s westernmost 11th district, held a slim lead over Republican Jeff Miller.
Rep. Bob Etheridge, the Democratic congressman from central North Carolina who in June became famous for manhandling a teenager asking him questions on video, held a double-digit lead over Republican Renee Ellmers.