Republicans closing in on control of Senate [UPDATED: Ernst puts GOP over the top]

As I write this (shortly after 10:00 p.m. in the East), the GOP has picked up five Senate seats tonight. The pick-ups are in West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Colorado, and Montana.

This puts the Republicans within one pick-up of taking control of the Senate. The GOP’s burden would increase, of course, if the Democrats were to gain a seat. And that could happen in Kansas, although incumbent Republican Pat Roberts is leading his pseudo-independent challenger.

So where will the Republicans find the one (or possibly two) seats they need to get to 51? The environment remains target-rich.

We won’t hear from Alaska for some time, but Republican Dan Sullivan is favored there. Iowa results are coming in. Republican Joni Ernst is a slight favorite.

In North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis has moved ever so slightly ahead of Kay Hagan. In Virginia, Ed Gillespie holds a 7,000 vote lead over Mark Warner with 97 percent of the precincts in. This would be the upset of the evening.

Louisiana won’t be decided tonight because neither Mary Landrieu nor Bill Cassidy will get to the required 50 percent. However, Cassidy will be the clear favorite in the run-off, inasmuch as (1) the third candidate in the race is, like Cassidy, a Republican and (2) Cassidy is outpolling Landrieu in the three-way race.

In sum, the Republicans seem virtually certain to take control of the Senate, and probably with votes to spare.

UPDATE: The Republicans have held Kansas. Pat Roberts has defeated Greg Orman, who wouldn’t say which political party he would align with in the Senate.

It’s a bad year for candidates — Orman, Grimes, and Nunn — who won’t tell the public where they stand on important matters. Call it buyers’ remorse — as a state senator, Barack Obama liked to vote “present” on tough issues — or call it common sense.

Politicians can still fool the public, but apparently being coy has its limits.

GOP WINS THE SENATE: Joni Ernst has won her race in Iowa. This gives Republicans six pick-ups. With the Dems shut-out in the pick-up department, the GOP will control the Senate come January.

Let the celebration begin.

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