Despite a strong last-minute push from Democrats, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was re-elected to a fifth term beating challenger Bruce Lunsford.
Earlier in the election, McConnell’s re-election seemed secure, but as a Democratic tide became more threatening, more attention turned towards the McConnell-Lunsford race that held the possibility of unseating a Republican leader.
As of 9:45 p.m. ET, Democrats had picked up at least four Senate seats previously held by Republicans in Virginia, New Hampshire, New Mexico and North Carolina.
Thirty-five Senate seats are at stake 23 of these are currently held by Republicans, while the Democrats are defending 12 slots.
Lunsford, a wealthy businessman, ran for Kentucky governor in the Democratic primaries in 2003 and 2007. He ran his race talking about the economy and attempting to link McConnell to President Bush.
“Whatever Bush wants, McConnell gives, and I think that this is a Bush-McConnell program that has been a marriage like Bonnie and Clyde,” Lunsford said on the campaign trail, according to WFPL, the public radio station in Louisville “It’s pretty hard not to see one without seeing the other.”
Later in the race, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, led by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, ran ads tying McConnell to the economic crisis. Lunsford’s campaign paid for similar ads.
According to NPR’s political editor Ken Rudin, no Republican majority or minority Senate leader had been defeated for re-election since 1932. The Democrats, however, did lose a minority leader when Sen. Tom Daschle of South Dakota lost his re-election in 2004.
McConnell became the minority leader in November 2006, after the Republicans lost control of the Senate in mid-term elections. Before that, he was Senate majority whip.