Republicans have retained their lock on the House of Representatives for two more years as candidates triumphed in a variety of districts Democrats had hoped to take in Florida, Virginia and elsewhere.
Donald Trump’s divisive comments about women and Hispanics meant Democrats had envisioned big gains in suburban and ethnically diverse districts for the lower chamber of the US Congress.
Instead Democrats seemed on track for modest pick-ups as Republican contenders were buoyed by their presidential candidate’s tight battle against Hillary Clinton.
While expectations were nearly zero that Democrats would win the 30 seats they needed to capture House control for next year, both sides had anticipated they would cut into the historic Republican majority by perhaps a dozen seats.
“This could be a really good night for America,” House speaker Paul Ryan, who won a 10th term in Wisconsin, told supporters in his home town of Janesville.
In Florida, Republican Carlos Curbelo won a race that suggested Mr Trump’s damage to the party would be limited.
With around seven in 10 of the Miami-area district’s voters being Hispanic, Democrats had targeted it and the race became one of the country’s most expensive, with an 18 million dollar price tag, but Mr Curbelo distanced himself from his own party’s nominee and held on.
Virginia representative Barbara Comstock kept her seat in the Washington DC suburbs despite Democrats’ relentless attempts to tie her to Mr Trump. The two sides spent more than 20 million dollars on that contest in a district of highly educated, affluent voters that both sides had viewed as vulnerable to a Democratic takeover.
Democrats defeated two Florida Republican incumbents, but those results seemed due to local circumstances.
John Mica, a 73-year-old 12-term veteran from the Orlando area, was criticised by Republican strategists for a lacklustre campaign and lost to Democrat newcomer Stephanie Murphy.
Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, once the state’s Republican governor, defeated David Jolly in a St Petersburg district that had been redrawn to favour Democrats.
Democrats spent 4 million dollars and beat Scott Garrett, a member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus from a northern New Jersey suburb of New York City, and they defeated Bob Dold, a Republican moderate from the Chicago suburbs where Democratic strength proved overpowering.
Both parties’ candidates and outside groups spent nearly 1.1 billion dollars combined on House campaigns, short of the 1.2 billion dollar record in 2012, according to the Centre for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan research group.
Republicans had only a slight financial edge.
While Mr Trump hurt Republicans in some areas, his appeal to working-class white voters and their antipathy to Ms Clinton helped candidates in others.
That seemed to help Republicans limit an erosion of their House majority, which would have left hardline conservatives with added clout to frustrate party leaders.
Even with the Ryan-led House advantage, work has stalled on spending bills after hitting objections from conservatives, including about 40 members of the Freedom Caucus. A major loss of moderate Republicans would have increased dissident Republicans’ leverage next year.