WASHINGTON — Republicans were poised to keep control of the House on Tuesday and well-positioned to hang on to the Senate as the fight narrowed to toss-up contests in fewer than half a dozen states.
After losing control two years ago, Democrats needed a net gain of five seats to take back the Senate if Donald Trump won the White House and four if Democrat Hillary Clinton prevailed and her running mate, Tim Kaine, became the tie-breaking vote as vice president.
Although the House majority was never seriously in doubt, the outcome in the Senate was less certain, hinging on close contests in Nevada, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Missouri and Pennsylvania.
But as the election returns rolled in, Democrats faced an increasingly narrow path to a majority.
Republicans, who currently hold 54 of 100 seats, prevailed in two states once considered by Democrats to be solid takeover prospects and hung on in one of the hardest-fought contests.
In Florida, Marco Rubio coasted to a second term after he reversed himself and decided to seek another term. In Ohio, Rob Portman also won easy re-election.
In Indiana, former Sen. Evan Bayh disappointed Democrats by failing in his comeback attempt, losing the state's open-seat contest to Rep. Todd Young. In North Carolina, Democrats faced another setback when incumbent Republican Richard Burr beat back a strong challenge to win re-election despite a lackluster campaign.
As expected, Democrats picked up a seat in Illinois, where Rep. Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican Mark Kirk, long seen as one of the most vulnerable GOP incumbents in the country.
In Arizona, Sen. John McCain battled for a sixth term. A strong Latino turnout was fueled by deep antipathy toward the Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump.
Louisiana's open Senate seat was likely to remain Republican, but it may require a December runoff if no candidate tops 50 percent.
Apart from the presidential contest, nothing on Tuesday would do as much to shape the political outlook for the next two years as the fight for control of the Senate.
If elected, Democrat Hillary Clinton could count on a smoother path with her party in control.
The same held true for Trump, who would face a much more difficult time with a Senate in the hands of opposition Democrats.