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US Democrats hold on to Senate majority

Democrats retained their majority in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, an outcome that leaves a divided Congress that closely resembles the one that has been gridlocked for the past two years on some of the nation’s most pressing issues.

Report by Washington Post

A combination of misfortune and mistakes left Republicans unable to seize control for the second straight election in which they were early favorites to make historic gains.

In a key race between Virginia political heavyweights, former governor Timothy M. Kaine (D) defeated former senator George Allen (R) .

Kaine won big in Fairfax County but also appeared likely to carry exurban Loudoun and Prince William counties, a result that would mimic the Northern Virginia coalition that carried Kaine to the governor’s mansion in 2005. His victory ended an attempt at political redemption by Allen, a onetime possible presidential contender who was unseated in 2006 by Sen. James Webb (D).

The Democrats flipped Republican Senate seats as the GOP saw sure-bet Indiana slip away. Rep. Joe Donnelly defeated conservative state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who sank after saying he believed that pregnancies that result from rape reflect the will of God.

In Massachusetts, liberal hero Elizabeth Warren gave Democrats an emotional win by snatching back the seat once held by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy from Republican Scott Brown.

After a series of hard-fought and sometimes nasty battles in Senate races that spanned the country, little changed in the chamber.

Democrats were likely to expand on their current 53-to-47-seat edge. But neither party appeared to be in a position to gain the seats necessary to win a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority, meaning a continuation of the gridlock that has been a hallmark of the modern Senate.

Still, a bare majority for Democrats offers them the chance to control the chamber’s agenda and committee structure. With that edge comes new leverage in negotiations over the nation’s most difficult problems, including fiscal issues that must be addressed even before the next Senate takes office.

With the GOP retaining control of the House of Representatives, Democrats needed to hold the Senate as a legislative ally to a reelected President Obama.

Until recently, Democrats were thought to be in danger of losing the Senate, given that only 10 Republican seats were up for grabs this year, while 23 Democratic seats were in play, including in a number of Republican-leaning states.

The GOP missteps of the 2012 race are likely to lead to a party reckoning before 2014, when Democrats will once again be defending more seats than Republicans.

Republican troubles began when moderate Sen. Olympia J. Snowe announced her retirement, citing the Senate’s bitter partisanship, paving the way for the loss of a GOP seat to independent former Maine governor Angus King. King has not said with which party he will caucus but is widely expected to side with Democrats.

Then establishment Republicans lost control of state nominating contests, as they did in 2010, and watched as the fate of the Senate was handed to candidates ill-suited to general elections.

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