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Were There Any Surprises? A Roundup Of Congressional Races

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

So we still don't have a final result in the presidential race, but let's take a few minutes and focus now on Congress. The Democrats retained control of the House last night but didn't make the kinds of gains they were hoping for in the Senate.

NPR's congressional reporter Kelsey Snell is with us. Good morning, Kelsey.

KELSEY SNELL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: You sleep much last night?

SNELL: (Laughter) Not as much sleep as one would like (laughter).

MARTIN: Yes, yes. Isn't that always the way it is? So where, at this moment, does it appear the balance of power in the Senate lies?

SNELL: Well, you know, the blue wave the Democrats had hoped for just does not seem to be materializing. So far, they have a net gain of one seat with two victories in Arizona and Colorado, two states where the polling was overwhelmingly in Democrats' favor in recent weeks. And there are many ballots left to be counted throughout the country, but the path for Democrats is getting much, much smaller.

You know - and Democrats spent huge in many of these races. They broke records for fundraising and spending in several states, and they started this cycle trying to make gains in areas that have long been Republican strongholds. And they hoped that all of that cash would help save them in states where, you know, there might have been an uphill battle. But it really did not appear to work in some of the major races where Democrats thought that, you know, the balance of the electorate was tipping in their favor in a potentially historic way.

MARTIN: OK. So let's get specific. What races and results stood out in particular?

SNELL: You know, as expected, Republicans won a seat in Alabama. They defeated Doug Jones, who kind of eked out an unlikely win there in a special election. But Republicans easily defended several seats where Democrats had hoped to make gains, like in Montana and Kansas and in South Carolina, where Democrats really felt like they had a shot at unseating Lindsey Graham, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, after the very public outcry over the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett. Now, Republicans are up in a few other states where Democrats hope to make gains like North Carolina, Georgia and Maine.

I'm going to spend today paying close attention to North Carolina, where Democrats pinned a lot of hopes on Cal Cunningham defeating Thom Tillis. And Susan Collins in Maine has held a lead throughout the night. Also watching results in Georgia, where there are two seats, one special election for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler who was appointed to the seat and one held by David Perdue. And Perdue has a sizable lead in this moment. The other race is headed to a runoff. So we may not have all of the answers that we're looking for when it comes to the Senate until January. So this is a situation where, you know, there is a lot of tension. But Republicans have held firm in places where Democrats really thought that their cash advantage and their campaigning could eke out these wins that would have given them significant power over the agenda in Washington.

MARTIN: All right. And we said that the House appears to stay with the Democrats. But any surprises in those races at all?

SNELL: Yeah. Like you said, Democrats do appear on track to hold control of the House. But the real news here is that the predictions of a potential blue wave here also did not really happen the way some Democrats had hoped. Republican incumbents really held firm in critical areas on the House side. They won several seats that Democrats themselves called bellwethers in states like Texas, Indiana and Virginia. There was - there were several open seats in Texas and Virginia that, you know, Democrats hoped would be just different. Democrats also lost two important seats in South Florida. They'd been predicting gains of five to 10 seats, but they've already lost several seats that would have been key to that goal.

MARTIN: All right. We appreciate you staying up, doing the hard work. Kelsey Snell, she covers Congress, and we'll be checking in with her throughout the morning for any changes or updates.

Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF EMANCIPATOR'S "EVE II (ODESZA REMIX)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.