A Congress divided: GOP holds House, but Dems fend off challenges in Senate

After months of furious campaigning by hundreds of candidates, Republicans failed to grab the Senate and Democrats couldn't make inroads in the House -- leaving the balance of power in Congress unchanged.

Republicans fell short Tuesday in their effort to win the Senate and take full control of Congress, losing practically every key race -- a series of frustrating losses two years after the party's gains in the midterm elections.

Democrats also fell short of their goal of picking up 25 House seats, which would have given them control of the 435-member chamber.

With President Obama securing a second term Tuesday night, he will continue to face a divided Congress for at least the next two years.

Rep. Paul Ryan, although losing Tuesday as Mitt Romney's vice presidential candidate, still won re-election to his Wisconsin congressional seat. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio also won easily, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor defeated Democratic challenger Wayne Powell to win a seventh term in Virginia's 7th District.

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"I'm humbled to be trusted by Americans," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "We will never let you down."

The final makeup of Congress was still unclear Wednesday morning, but the Democrats had secured at least 52 seats to Republicans' 44 in the Senate, while Republicans in the House had at least 224 seats and Democrats at least 171.

Republicans needed to win only a handful of Senate seats to take control of the upper chamber, a task they considered within reach after two years earlier winning over the House with the help of the fledgling but forceful Tea Party movement.

Yet two candidates with strong Tea Party ties unraveled and eventually lost close races this year after comments they made about rape and pregnancy.

In Missouri, Republicans made incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill a primary target, trying to portray her as a rubberstamp for President Obama’s spending.

However, challenger Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial remark about rape and pregnancy this summer took away his support from national Republicans and more middle-of-the-road Missouri voters.

And in Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly defeated Tea Party-backed Republican Richard Mourdock in the race for the seat of longtime Republican Sen. Richard Lugar.

Mourdock upset Lugar in the primary but struggled in the general election after making his own controversial comments about rape that Democrats quickly used against him.

Thirty-three Senate seats were up for grabs Tuesday -- 23 for Democrats and 10 for Republicans.

One of the few Senate highlights for Republicans was in Arizona, where Rep. Jeff Flake defeated Democrat Richard Carmona for the open seat of retiring Republican Sen. Jon Kyl.

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, defeated first-term Republican Sen. Scott Brown in heavily Democratic Massachusetts, resolving a race that was too close to call through much of the election cycle.

In Connecticut, Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy defeated Republican Linda McMahon, a former pro wrestling executive, for the open seat of retiring independent Sen. Joe Lieberman.

This marks the second Senate loss in two years for McMahon, who spent million on the races. Despite being a much-improved candidate since 2010, McMahon faced tough odds in the Democrat-leaning state.

In Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson won a third term, defeating Republican Rep. Connie Mack.

Democratic incumbent Bob Casey held on to his Senate seat in Pennsylvania. The first-term senator defeated Republican challenger Tom Smith.

The open Senate seat in Maine will be filled by independent candidate Angus King, who beat out Democrat Cynthia Dill and Republican Charlie Summers to take over the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican. King is expected to caucus with Democrats.

In Virginia, Democrat Tim Kaine defeated Republican George Allen. The former governors were running for the open seat of outgoing Democratic Sen. Jim Webb.

Liberal Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, turned back a challenge by Republican John MacGovern.

In West Virginia, Sen.  Joe Manchin, a Democrat who has distanced himself from Obama’s restrictive coal regulations, defeated Republican challenger John Raese.