In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Leaders of some of the most prominent tea party and conservative-aligned outside groups gathered for a press conference on Wednesday to take a post-GOP-now-controls-the-Senate victory lap. But they also had a much less cheerful message for the new Republican Senate majority: we're watching you.

They all argued that the GOP gains in the Senate, House, and state legislatures were because candidates ran on tea party principles, even when those candidates weren't aligned or even were the targets of tea party groups.

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There were times on Tuesday when it appeared that Republican Ed Gillespie maybe — just maybe — could defeat Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) in what would be one of the bigger upsets of the midterm elections. On Wednesday, though Warner seemed to clearly be the winner as he led by 12,000 votes and felt confident in this lead that he could declare victory even though the race still had not been officially called.

But the lingering question remained: How did Warner, who has been deemed one of the safest incumbent Senate Democrats, survive by such a thin margin?

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There is "no possibility of a government shutdown" in the new Republican Congress, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told TIME magazine after his party's blowout victory on Tuesday night.

But the Kentucky Republican simultaneously promised to use government funding bills to rein in President Barack Obama's regulations and executive actions, saying there will be "prescriptions of certain things that we think he ought not to be doing by either reducing the funding or restricting the funding."

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With few exceptions, 2014 turned out to be the worst possible scenario for Democrats. The Senate is not only back in the hands of Republicans, but with a margin of seats over Democrats that only the most optimistic scenarios envisioned. Governorships that Democrats expected to wrest from Republicans proved out of their reach, but worse yet they stunningly lost gubernatorial races in solidly blue states.

Heading into Election Day, everybody seemed to agree that Republicans had the edge, but it could go either way. Democrats had a plausible if unlikely path to Senate victory, and a promised silver lining in red state governor races. But at midnight on Wednesday, that conventional wisdom looks almost laughably dated. Republicans won almost every meaningful race and, even in a few where they lost, they made Democrats sweat more than anyone expected.

Ousting Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) and avoiding what would have been an unbelievable upset of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) are about the only small morsels that Democrats can hold onto. Otherwise, the map couldn't have been any worse for Democrats -- or better for Republicans.

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Iowa state Sen. Joni Ernst (R), won the race for U.S. Senate, defeating Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) and ending a long climb for Ernst where she began as a long-shot candidate behind Republican Mark Jacobs and ended up as a rare unity candidate with the support of both the tea party and establishment wing of the GOP.

The race was called for Ernst at around 11:32 PM by Fox News and NBC.

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