With no fanfare just after 9:30 this morning, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell – soon to be Senate Majority Leader – entered the Capitol, flashing a gigantic smile on his face, giving me a wave as he headed up the stairs to his office just off the Senate floor.
It could have been any other day of the year – but McConnell’s smile gave away the excitement of Republicans right now, as they returned to celebrate their election victories last week.
“We’re really excited about having a great new bunch here,” McConnell said about a half hour later, as he greeted the new group of GOP Senators in his office.
As McConnell mentioned, not in that group was the Republican who was declared the winner early today by news organizations, as Dan Sullivan seems to have defeated Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK).
That would give the GOP a pickup of eight seats in the Senate; Republicans are very confident it could swell to nine seats with the upcoming runoff in Louisiana.
The last time a party won a net gain of more than eight seats was back in 1980, when Republicans took 12 seats and control of the Senate as Ronald Reagan won his first term.
Meanwhile, the new GOP Senators were ushered into meetings with McConnell and other top Senate Republicans; they toured the cloakroom and the Senate floor and then lunched with leaders of the Rules Committee.
“It’s an honor,” said Sen.-elect David Perdue of Georgia. “I’m humbled to be here,” he told me in the hallway off the Senate floor.