Democrats' Senate drive halted by GOP; key races undecided

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Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Bangor, Maine, after Tuesday's election. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

WASHINGTON – Democrats faced increasingly long odds as the battle for Senate control hangs in balance, and Republicans brushed back multiple challengers to protect their majority. Still, it was too soon for the GOP to declare victory.

In Michigan, Democrats were spared a loss late Wednesday when Sen. Gary Peters beat back a tough challenge from Republican John James. But Republicans held on to Susan Collins in Maine and other key seats across the map.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Donald Trump’s campaign helped his GOP allies, but that state election officials were still counting ballots. Key Senate races in North Carolina, Alaska and Georgia remained undecided.

“We're waiting — whether I'm going to be the majority leader or not,” McConnell said at a news conference in his home state of Kentucky.

In a delicate pushback against Trump's own premature claims of victory over Joe Biden in the presidential race, the GOP leader said: “Claiming you’ve won the election is different from finishing the counting."

McConnell said he felt “pretty good” about the remaining contests. He secured a seventh term in a costly campaign, fending off Democrat Amy McGrath, a former fighter pilot.

Election night delivered a jarring outcome for Democrats who had devised an expanded political map, eager to counter Trump and his party’s grip on the Senate.

While Democrats picked up must-win seats in Colorado and Arizona, they suffered a setback in Alabama, and Republicans held their own in one race after another — in South Carolina, Iowa, Texas, Kansas, Montana and Maine, dramatically limiting Democrats' hopes to make inroads.