The Democrats retained the second Senate seat in Massachusetts with the victory of Ed Markey in a special election on Tuesday evening, avoiding the kind of upset that hurt Barack Obama and the party in his first term.
Mr Markey, a veteran congressman, convincingly beat Gabriel Gomez, the Republican candidate, for the seat. It fell vacant with the appointment of John Kerry as secretary of state earlier this year.
Although considered a traditional Democratic stronghold, the Republicans won one of the state’s seats in a special election in 2010 after the death of Ted Kennedy. Scott Brown’s upset victory left the Democrats in the Senate short of the numbers needed to pass legislation, and reflected early discontent with the Obama administration. That was felt in full in a landslide win for the Republicans in the midterm elections later in 2010.
“The lesson from Scott Brown’s accidental win in 2010 was that Democrats must never take a race for granted,” said Guy Cecil, the Democrats’ Senate campaign director.
Unlike Mr Brown, Mr Gomez, a former Navy Seal, attracted little support from conservatives outside the state who did not believe he had a chance of winning.
In contrast, money poured into Mr Markey’s campaign from unions and environmental groups. Mr Obama and other top Democrats all visited the state to campaign for him.
Democrats claim Mr Markey’s victory bodes well for the party in the 2014 midterms, when control of the Senate will be up for grabs.
“Not only are Republicans facing the prospect of divisive primaries in nearly all of the red states, their failure to compete even in states where [Mitt] Romney was competitive, such as Colorado, Virginia and New Hampshire, has dramatically shrunk the Senate map,” Mr Cecil said.
But Republicans dismissed any national implications.
Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for the Republican Senate campaign, said in a tweet that the Democrats had to outspend the Republicans three to one “to compete in the most liberal state in the country”.
“[That’s a] bad sign for Democrats in 2014,” he said.
Thirty-three of the chamber’s 100 seats are being contested in November 2014, with 21 of them held by Democrats, making the party more vulnerable.
The Democrats have 54 votes and the Republicans 46 in today’s Senate.