Election Day began with Democratic hopes running high that they could capture a majority of the U.S. Senate, but things went quickly awry as results started trickling in.
The big early alarm bell came in North Carolina. With 96 percent of the vote recorded in North Carolina, Republican Sen. Thom Tillis is leading Democrat Cal Cunningham by about 90,000 votes. This is a massive wrench in the Democratic effort to retake the Senate.
The easiest path for Democrats to pick up four seats and thus the majority (with Democratic Sen. Doug Jones losing in Alabama) was by knocking off the incumbents in Colorado, Maine, Arizona and North Carolina.
They achieved that in Colorado with former Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) unseating Sen. Cory Gardner. Arizona, where Mark Kelly is challenging Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), looks promising for the Democrat — with the caveat that the outstanding last quarter of the votes cast will include a lot of Republican-leaning Election Day votes.
But from there, races Democrats were once bullish about are looking increasingly out of reach — and they’re running out of road to turn things around.
With over 80 percent of the vote recorded in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is running eight points ahead of Democrat Sara Gideon.
And with over 95 percent of the vote in for North Carolina, things are looking fairly dire. Cunningham, despite a late-stage sexting scandal, had been polling ahead by a small but steady margin for months. That lead has evaporated.
With North Carolina likely off the table and Maine dubious at best, things start getting desperate. Democrats’ next best shot would have been in Iowa, but Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) notched a win against Theresa Greenfield. In Montana, the Associated Press projected Republican Sen. Steve Daines would win reelection against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff is trailing Sen. David Perdue by four points with about 93 percent of the vote reported.
That’s a grim landscape for Democrats, and not the one they expected going into the night.
The idiosyncrasies of the two Georgia races hold dim glimmers of hope: Rev. Raphael Warnock is headed to a runoff against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) in January for the special election, and if Ossoff can drag Perdue below 50 percent, they’ll duke it out in a runoff as well.
Democrats’ quest for the Senate majority isn’t completely over yet — but they’ve watched many more doors slam than windows open tonight in the races that were their best bets.