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Democrats Get Their Only Senate Pick-Up In Illinois

Zbigniew Bzdak/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images
Tammy Duckworth (center) candidate for U.S. Senator for Illinois, gets a hug from supporter Demetria Puckett during lunch at Manny's Cafeteria and Delicatessen in Chicago, Ill., earlier today.

Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth wins the Illinois Senate race, AP projects. She defeats GOP Sen. Mark Kirk, who made a series of gaffes in a race where he was already at a significant disadvantage, given the heavy Democratic tilt of the state.

It’s an important -- but hardly unexpected -- pick-up for Democrats and gives them their first net Senate seat of the night. Democrats need to flip five Senate seats -- or four if Clinton wins the White House -- and this gets them part of the way there. It topped our list of likely Democratic Senate pick-ups all year.

Kirk already had the dubious distinction of being the Republican who represented the bluest state in the country, and he won in 2010, which was a good year for the GOP and he faced a weak Democratic opponent, too. Duckworth is an Iraq war veteran and former U.S. Army pilot who lost both of her legs when her helicopter crashed.

Duckworth ran a good race, but Kirk had a lot of missteps and gaffes, too. The most viral was in a debate when he made a flippant remark about Duckworth’s military service and heritage. Her mother is from Thailand and her father is American, and when she talked about her family fighting in the American Revolution, his retort was, “I'd forgotten that your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington."