In it, but not of it. TPM DC

One question has dogged Iowa's Joni Ernst throughout her come-from-behind election to the Senate: what kind of senator will she be?

Throughout the campaign, Ernst, a favorite of both establishment and tea party Republicans, has given few hints, relying more on her narrative and personal "charisma" than on strong policy positions to carry her to an upset.

But there have been times when Ernst may have tipped her hand. Here are seven important moments to know about as she prepares to take office.

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The GOP's blowout victory last week came with an important catch: it'll be difficult to replicate in 2016. The race for the White House is more likely to turn out the Democratic base and Hispanic voters are poised to play a key role in battleground states like Florida, Colorado and Nevada.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) recognizes this conundrum, complicated by his Republican members who nixed an immigration reform bill passed by the Democratic-led Senate. It's too risky to pass comprehensive immigration reform because the GOP base staunchly opposes it, and it's too risky to do nothing because that could imperil the party's hopes of winning the presidency.

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By the time Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moves in to the majority leader's suite just off the Senate floor, he'll likely be leading a caucus of 54 Republican senators.

That means he'll need six Democrats to break filibusters and achieve the magic 60-vote threshold required to pass controversial legislation through the Senate, such as hacking away at Obamacare or approving the Keystone pipeline.

There are six Democrats who are most likely to, in the interest of bipartisanship, join Republicans on some key issues and make life miserable for Democratic leaders and President Barack Obama. Think of them as the Ben Nelsons of the next Congress.

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After President Obama urged the Federal Communications Commission to act on new net neutrality rules, Congressional Republicans quickly voiced opposition, cementing the the regulations as a partisan issue.

"It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration continues to disregard the people’s will and push for more mandates on our economy. An open, vibrant Internet is essential to a growing economy, and net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship," House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a statement Monday. "In the new Congress, Republicans will continue our efforts to stop this misguided scheme to regulate the Internet."

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During the first Clinton White House, First Lady Hillary Clinton became the public face of the administration's push for health care reform. She testified at public hearings, headed a task force, and the policies coalesced under the moniker "Hillarycare." When those proposals died in 1993, it arguably set comprehensive health care reform back for more than a decade.

Then in 2008, the political environment was ripe for reform for the first time since. Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, now running for president, laid out her plan, which per the Washington Post, would have sought "to build on the existing health-care system, but ... make it easier for adults without health insurance to buy it through tax credits." But she lost the Democratic primary to a senator from Illinois and, six years later, those policies have a different name ascribed to them: Obamacare.

More than 10 million have gained health coverage because of that law, the Affordable Care Act, with the second enrollment period set to start later this week. So if, as is almost universally expected, Clinton decides to seek for the White House again, what will there be left for her to do?

A lot actually, according to one of her closest former advisers: Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, who was policy director for the 2008 Clinton campaign, worked in the Clinton White House and worked for the Obama administration on health care reform.

Like most people close to the former secretary of state and first lady, Tanden refused to entertain any direct questions about Clinton's 2016 plans. But in an interview with TPM, she did talk about the role that health care might play in the coming presidential campaign and how potential Democratic candidates, and Clinton in particular, might approach it.

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Like their peers across the country, when some South Carolina voters walked out of the polling station this week, they were asked to take an exit poll. But some of the questions were a little different -- things like, "Blacks are getting too demanding in their push for equal rights. Agree or disagree?"

And South Carolinans weren't happy about it.

It wasn't the Ku Klux Klan canvassing voters in the Palmetto State. It was political scientists from Clemson University and the University of South Carolina. The irony is that they wanted to seize on a historical moment -- the election of Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the first black senator to be elected in the South since Reconstruction -- to test whether racial animus was still a factor for voters.

But in doing so, they managed to stir up a lot of backlash. "This is shameful!" tweeted one person who received the survey. Another, according to WSPA in Greenville, said the questions were "overtly racist."

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Polls may have closed Tuesday night, but as of Friday no winner had been declared in some key midterm races.

The Republican Party has already solidified its majority in the Senate by holding onto seats in Kentucky, Kansas and Georgia while knocking off Democratic candidates in North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and Arkansas. The GOP may add to that majority depending on the outcome of the Alaska Senate race.

The GOP made huge gains in the House as well and expanded its majority to a commanding 244 seats. The party may add one more to its ranks if candidate Carl DeMaio manages to eke out a victory over incumbent Democratic Rep. Scott Peters in California's 52nd congressional district.

Here's where each of those races currently stands.

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