UPDATE at 11:30 p.m.: With everything settled in Georgia except the final margins, here's a rundown of the bigger surprises tonight elsewhere:
- In Illinois, Republican Bruce Rauner has defeated Gov. Pat Quinn.
- Scott Walker is cruising to re-election in Wisconsin, up nearly 11 points with more than half the votes counted.
- Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears to have fended off a challenge from former governor and political chameleon Charlie Crist.
- As of this writing, Republicans hold leads in gubernatorial races in Kansas (GOP incumbent who had trailed in the polls), Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts and even Maryland.
- The GOP held all three of its endangered Senate seats (Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky); has already unseated three Democratic incumbents (Arkansas, Colorado and, just called by the AP, North Carolina) and is going to a runoff against a fourth (Louisiana) with a fifth (Alaska) still voting; won four open seats previously held by Democrats (Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia and, just called by Fox News, Iowa); and remains within 1 point in Virginia. That puts the party in the majority with a strong chance of 53 seats, and an outside chance at 54 -- up from 45 currently.
- The last white Democratic congressman in the South, John Barrow, was finally caught by a Republican, Rick Allen, in Georgia's 12th District.
That is a heckuva night for the GOP. Now to get on with doing something with these wins.
UPDATE at 10:45 p.m.: CNN has also called the election for Perdue, and the network just called the governor's race for Deal as well. Barring some exceedingly strong turnout in the Democratic parts of Fulton and DeKalb, it's possible GOP margins in the statewide races will remain as high as in 2010. That seemed unthinkable even a week ago.
As for the big picture, here's what one of the main number-crunchers at FiveThirtyEight.com has to say:
UPDATE at 10:35 p.m.: A big, big win for the Georgia GOP as Rick Allen knocks off Rep. John Barrow, a longtime target of state and national Republicans. It's one more piece of evidence that the GOP is going to wrap up this election tonight, without a runoff in either of the top two races. In fact, CBS News is projecting that Perdue will win the Senate race outright. I'm a little leery of how many votes still need to be counted in metro Atlanta, but I do think the chances of a runoff are looking worse all the time.
Elsewhere, races for Senate in Colorado and Montana have been called for the GOP, leaving Republicans one seat shy of a majority. They won't get it from New Hampshire, but North Carolina and Virginia have yet to be called. And with Kentucky and now Georgia looking to be GOP holds, it appears to be a matter now of just how large the new majority will be.
UPDATE at 9:23 p.m.: Both Nunn and Carter are running below 40 percent with a little more than a third of precincts reporting. Of course, metro Atlanta has yet to weigh in. Still, it appears neither Democrat is performing well enough in South Georgia -- an area where they'd hoped to make gains in part on their famous names and in part on the issues they emphasized.
Nationally, Republicans are halfway to the net gain they need for a Senate majority, picking up (as expected) a seat in South Dakota. Meanwhile, the Democrat-held seats in North Carolina and Virginia appear to be running more favorably for Republicans than expected.
UPDATE at 8:36 p.m.: The GOP has its second Senate pick-up; Arkansas has been called for Republican Tom Cotton over incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor. Republicans need a net gain of four more seats to take the Senate. Elsewhere, the GOP unsurprisingly lost a governorship in Pennsylvania, where the race has been called against incumbent Tom Corbett. I also failed to mention in my earlier post the Ohio governor's race -- not because it was considered to be in doubt, but because GOP Gov. John Kasich is said to be considering a 2016 run as well.
In Georgia, the early returns show voting down in the handful of counties that have fully reported. Democrats have lost more votes than Republicans so far in the top two races.
UPDATE at 7:33 p.m.: The GOP has its first pick-up in the Senate, though it's not a surprise. West Virginia has been called for Republican Shelly Moore Capito to fill the seat of retiring Democrat Jay Rockefeller.
Locally, the first results are in. There's a slight bit of drop-off from the Senate total to the gubernatorial total. Interestingly, Perdue is outpacing Nathan Deal, while Jason Carter is outpacing Nunn.
UPDATE at 7:04 p.m.: That was quick: The Associated Press, CNN and Fox News have called the Kentucky Senate race for Mitch McConnell. Also: Both South Carolina seats remain Republican (Tim Scott won to finish an unexpired term after being appointed to replace Jim DeMint).
CNN reports an exit poll shows David Perdue leading Michelle Nunn 49 percent to 48 percent. That, of course, would produce a nine-week runoff here.
I'll be updating this post as the night goes on with information that seems significant -- both for Georgia races and some of the top races out of state . With so much going on, I'm going to take the thread out of moderation; it will stay that way as long as folks stick to the topic of the elections.