Nov 4, 2014 9:04 PM by NBC News
Republicans edged closer Tuesday to capturing the Senate and locked up control of the House for two more years, according to an NBC News projection, in a midterm election waged across a deeply unhappy electorate.
The GOP was projected to pick off Senate seats held by Democrats in Arkansas, Colorado, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia - five of the six they needed to control the chamber for the first time in eight years. Mitch McConnell defended his seat in Kentucky, hoping to become majority leader.
But Democrat Jeanne Shaheen beat back a furious challenge from ex-Sen. Scott Brown to hold her New Hampshire seat as her party sought a firewall. Republicans were also forced to defend seats that they hold in Kansas and Georgia, meaning their margin could fall.
In the House, the GOP sought to expand its 233-199 advantage. NBC News projected that they quickly sealed two more years in the majority. The Republicans were expected to finish the night with a margin of 243-192, plus or minus seven seats.Exit poll data found the public in a bleak mood: 54 percent disapprove of Obama, and 79 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Two in three Americans in the last NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll before the vote said that the country was on the wrong track.
In the Senate, Democratic incumbent Mark Udall of Colorado was bounced by Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, and Tom Cotton was projected to beat Mark Pryor in Arkansas. Republicans Steve Daines in Montana, Mike Rounds in South Dakota and Shelley Moore Capito in West Virginia all captured seats held by retiring Democrats.
Regardless of how the rest of the Senate races shake out - there are 36 seats to be decided in all - control of the chamber might not be decided for weeks or months.
In Louisiana, NBC News projected that the Senate race was headed for a Dec. 6 runoff, with incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu facing Republican challenger Bill Cassidy. A runoff was also a possibility in Georgia, where Democrat Michelle Nunn was battling Republican David Perdue.
In Kansas, independent Greg Orman has said he will caucus with the majority party if he wins - but he could wind up determining the majority all by himself.
Obama, with a new Congress to deal with, invited leaders of both parties and both houses to the White House on Friday for a post-election meeting, a White House official told NBC News.
A Republican takeover of the Senate would force Obama to use his veto power far more often - he has wielded it only twice in six years - and complicate his efforts to make judicial appointments, including to the Supreme Court.
Almost across the board, Republicans sought to tie their Democratic opponents to the president throughout the campaign. And the president mostly stayed away from states with close races, knowing his presence could hinder vulnerable Democrats seeking to distance themselves from the leader of their party.Voters have been rattled all year by threats they scarcely considered before - ISIS, Ebola, a Russian menace. But they reported that they care far more about the economy, and two in three are unhappy about that, too.
Obama's approval rating has bounced around the low 40s all year - 42 percent in the final reading before Election Day. The approval rating for Congress barely clears double digits.
For all the discontent, voters are just about evenly split on who should be trusted to clean up the mess after the least productive Congresses in history. Likely voters in the NBC poll preferred a Republican-controlled Congress by a margin of just 46-45.
In governor's races, Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin, a potential 2016 presidential candidate who clashed with unions and then survived a recall election two years ago, won a tough re-election battle.
Incumbent republican Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania was ousted by Democrat Tom Wolf. In Texas, Republican Greg Abbott was projected to beat Democrat Wendy Davis, who gained national fame last year by filibustering an abortion bill.
In all, 36 governorships are up for grabs. There, the sour mood of the country was even more evident: At least 10 governors were vulnerable, in addition to the one, Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, who already lost in a primary.
Among others biting their nails were Republicans Sam Brownback of Kansas, whose deep tax cuts were blamed for economic disaster, and Paul LePage of Maine, who spent the race's last week trading potshots with a nurse defying an Ebola quarantine.
A victory by Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist in Florida over Republican Gov. Rick Scott would be a rare bright spot for Democrats in what is expected to be an overall disappointing election night.Among ballot initiatives, Alaska, Oregon and the District of Columbia are voting on whether to allow the use of limited amounts of marijuana. Arkansas and Nebraska passed minimum-wage increases, and they were on the ballot in Alaska and South Dakota.
Measure 5 in Colorado, which would have enacted a "personhood" abortion ban and included unborn human beings in the state criminal code, failed.