As the earliest Senate results came in on Election Night, Republicans found themselves out to an early lead in the race for Senate seats, collecting two expected wins in states that Democrats had figured to be competitive earlier this year.
They did it by weathering some tough attacks from Democrats.
Rand Paul claimed the first big win for the Tea Party of the 2010 midterms, as the son of the Tea Party's brains continued on his path to national Tea Party stardom, which started when he defeated Republican Secretary of State Trey Grayson in the Republican primary in May.
Paul survived an aggressive campaign from Democrat Jack Conway in the closing weeks of the race. Playing up Paul's "Aqua Buddha" incident as a college student at Baylor (wherein he kidnapped a girl as a prank, tried to force her to take bong hits, and forced her to pray to "Aqua Buddha") and aired an ad attacking Paul's Christianity.
Former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats, meanwhile, will return to the Senate after a victory over Rep. Brad Ellsworth, after the Democratic Party amped up its opposition-research/attack-messaging machine as soon as it became clear Coats would run.
He was registered to vote in Virginia. He worked as a corporate lobbyist. He lobbied for PhRMA, they said, and had ties to Hugo Chaves and Yemeni interests. A storm of negative material on Coats was unleashed on the national media.
But both have survived. Paul actually benefited from the Aqua Buddha ad, as the media seemed to judge it as a questionable attack line. The ad sealed the race, a Kentucky source says: Jack Conway's campaign "didn't control the messaging afterward and the national media painted it as horrible," the source writes. Voters believed the media and the ad failed.
And while Democrats found themselves a decent candidate in Rep. Brad Ellsworth in Indiana, the anti-Coats messaging wasn't enough to keep him from shooting out to a lead in this tough year for Democrats, to the point where polling showed a race that wasn't competitive heading into Election Day.