The Republican Party has gained an early reassurance that it may be on track for a major victory in the US midterms, with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell holding his Kentucky Senate seat against challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes.

As of 8pm, US Eastern Time, and with around a third of the votes counted, McConnell is leading Grimes 55% to 42%, a decisive lead. That may come in to some degree, but an upset victory would be near impossible.

Kentucky is one of the few states reporting so far. Another, New Hampshire, has only a few ward results, from major city Manchester, which show the Democrats leading by about 2-3%, in line with expectations.

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In Florida, the race for a governorship which may be crucial in the 2016 election is on a knife-edge, with former moderate Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican Rick Scott on 47.5% each — and Crist issuing a lawsuit to keep polling places open in Broward county, around Fort Lauderdale, and with a significant black and hispanic population — and voting queues miles long.

The closely watched Senate races will be New Hampshire, as a bellwether, Georgia, as a possible Democrat reverse win, Kansas, where independent Greg Orman is giving the eternal Republican incumbent the race of his life — and Iowa, which is the “firewall” by the Democrats against a Republican takeover.

Louisiana will also be interesting even though Democrat Mary Landrieu is trailing by 5%. Like Georgia, it’s a run-off state, should no-one get a 50%+1. In both cases, the third party is a libertarian, so the expectation is that Landrieu has no chance in the run-off — but in Georgia, Michelle Nunn may hang on. But that run-off wouldn’t occur until January 2015 — so, if there is a close result, the Senate may be hung for months.

Nevertheless, that is looking unlikely. Though the first of the exit polls — New Hampshire — gives the Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen a 52-48 lead, and a win, McConnell’s Kentucky result would appear to be the start of a trend, which will give the whole of Congress to the Republicans. One potential shock result is in Virginia, where the Democrats are trailing 46-54, with a third of the vote in — the only caveat being that the state is split between the leftish suburbs of DC, and the goddamn cornpone, banjo-twanging start of the South, in the West of the state.

With the Republicans needing six wins from “competitive” seats — and having Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota all but declared for them — another five seats would give them a buffer against any Democrat gains. Those five will be, if they come, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa. But if Georgia and Kansas don’t come good, they won’t need them.

It will be a long night. Months long, maybe. Or years.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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