The focus, of course, is on President Barack Obama’s resounding re-election — but there are plenty of other reasons why Democrats are celebrating Tuesday night’s results.

In the summer, it looked like Obama’s party would struggle to maintain their Senate majority. Instead, they have extended it. Embattled incumbents held on in tight races in Missouri, Montana and Ohio. The Democrats also retained vulnerable seats in New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin despite the incumbents having retired. And they took seats off the Republicans in Indiana and Massachusetts, to take their total up to 54 Senators — and it could rise to 55 if newly-elected independent Angus King decides to caucus with them.

The Democrats also beat expectations in House elections. They took a majority of votes nationwide, but were unable to overturn the GOP’s majority of seats — just as happened in 1996. They did reduce that majority though, with a net gain of at least six seats (and a further three neck-and-neck as the final votes are tallied). Impressively, the Democrats didn’t lose a single seat they were expected to win, took 18 of the 29 races the Cook Political Report had rated ‘tossups’ (two are still yet to be called), as well as holding on in districts that the Republicans seemed poised to gain, such as Massachusetts’ 6th and Utah’s 4th. Only four Democratic incumbents were defeated, compared to 14 Republican ones.

The Democrats’ gains included the two closely-fought New Hampshire districts, meaning that they now control all 21 New England seats in the House — and with their losses in Maine and Massachusetts, the Republicans are left with just two of the region’s 12 Senators. Obama’s party also took four seats off the GOP in his home state of Illinois.

At a state government level, too, the Democrats did better than expected. They won five of the seven competitive gubernatorial races, losing North Carolina but holding on well in Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, West Virginia and (it looks like) Washington. They turned a 186-seat Republican majority in the New Hampshire statehouse into a 40-seat Democratic majority, while also taking control of the Colorado and Oregon statehouses, the New York state senate, and both chambers in Maine and Minnesota. The Republicans did seize four chambers themselves, though: the Alaska and Wisconsin state senates and both chambers in Arkansas.

All in all, a strong night for the Democrats, albeit not as strong as the 2006 and 2008 elections — and not enough to recover from the hammering they took in the 2010 midterms.

Tags: Democrats, US election 2012, US politics