With 51 Senate seats, Democrats have retained their majority in the United States Senate, setting the stage for a divided Congress that will likely define the next two years of American politics.
As it stands now, Republicans have 46 seats in the Senate, and Democrats have 51. Senate races in Colorado, Washington and Alaska are still up in the air. The new Senate breakdown is at least 49 Democrats, 46 Republicans and 2 Independents who caucus with the Dems.
The new Senate, when sworn in January, will be missing some big names observers have been used to hearing, including Arlen Specter (D-PA), Evan Bayh (D-IN), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Jim Bunning (R-KY), all of whom either retired or were defeated by primary opponents.
In the end, Democrats lost President Obama’s old Senate seat but kept Vice President Biden’s. Losing Senators like Russ Feingold (WI) and Blanche Lincoln (AR) will change the dynamics for the party caucus quite a bit. But Democrats can hang their hats on caucus leader Harry Reid’s win in his home state of Nevada, a race that no one thought he had locked up.
Overall, Democrats can look to the Senate retention as the silver lining to what otherwise has been a stormy night for the party. The real question now is how much gridlock will be produced by a divided Congress, and on what — if anything — the parties can come together to create any dramatic legislative successes.