WASHINGTON -- When CNN announced on Tuesday evening that Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall lost, about 25 young undocumented immigrants and pro-immigration reform advocates in a row house in Washington, D.C., groaned in unison.
They were gathered to watch a live stream of the election results, eat pizza and tacos, and, at times, to vent. The advocates, some of them undocumented young people known as Dreamers, viewed all of the results through the lens of immigration reform. When Senate candidates' faces appeared on TV, they would run through the candidates' credentials -- how they voted on the comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 and the Dream Act in 2010, plus whether they urged the president to halt deportations administratively. "How did he vote on IR?" one woman asked as Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia showed on the screen. "How did he come out on admin?"
Someone had printed photos of many of the candidates to tape on the wall -- they called it their "Scandal" wall, inspired by the television show. Whenever CNN announced the results of a race, someone would mark off the result. Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, who earned Dreamers' ire when she opposed executive action on immigration, ended the evening with a loss and a large X over her face, the word "LOSER!" scrawled underneath.
Everyone was expecting a bad night for Democrats, but a Udall win could have been a bright spot for immigration advocates, proof that Latino voters could turn out and protect a candidate for being pro-reform. Udall not only voted for comprehensive immigration reform, he also criticized Obama for delaying executive action, so he remained in most advocates' good graces. But in the end, he got an X over his face, too, but a slightly nicer note: "LOST!"
As of next year, the Senate will be controlled by Republicans, as will the House. The fact that the Senate flipped to Republicans wasn't necessarily surprising to advocates, but it was a frustrating reminder of the president's decision to delay executive action on immigration. That move was meant to protect vulnerable red-state Democrats like Hagan, but most of them either lost anyway or are poised to lose. In Colorado, executive action could have boosted enthusiasm from Latino voters to the benefit of Udall. Instead, he lost to Republican Cory Gardner, whose immigration stances are far more conservative. The only tangible effect of the delay may have been the deportation of thousands of people who could have been helped by executive action.
"There was a political miscalculation from the administration that delaying executive action would help them save the Senate," Lorella Praeli, advocacy director for the Dreamer advocacy group United We Dream, said at the watch party.
Both sides of the immigration debate are likely to make claims about what the result means for immigration prospects. Pro-reform advocates can argue that Democrats lost because they opposed executive action on immigration and because Latinos were disappointed with the president. Reform opponents can say that it was a referendum against immigration reform and Obama's policies. In reality, immigration wasn't the top issue for most voters, despite remaining a priority for Latinos.
What's next depends on who you ask, how optimistic they are and how they define "immigration reform." Some Republicans have said a GOP-led Senate would be more likely to get an immigration bill to the president, particularly as the party tries to win the Latino vote in 2016. But bills brought up by a Republican Senate aren't likely to be as immigrant-friendly as the legislation that passed the upper chamber in 2013.
Plus, Obama's planned executive action on immigration could shake up the issue entirely. Republicans have spent months saying the president and Democrats are at fault for illegal immigration. Some, like failed Republican Senate hopeful Scott Brown in New Hampshire, made demonizing immigrants a key part of their campaigns. They've long said they can't trust the president on immigration, and that's not likely to change just because Republicans control the Senate.
Over the past few weeks, some Republicans have said they're likely to work on immigration next year -- something many Americans want. Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee whose disastrous loss with Latino voters made some Republicans rethink how they should address immigration, predicted on "Fox News Sunday" that a GOP-controlled Congress would send an immigration package to the president.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in September that "there's a possibility that Congress could take [immigration reform] up next year." And Boehner ally Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said during a debate on Sunday that he thinks undocumented immigrants need to receive legal status and be allowed to become citizens through the existing processes. "I think you can reach a compromise on that," he said. "I think that's what you'll see when the next Congress takes up immigration reform. And the House is going to take it up."
If they try, it will be against the wishes of Republicans like Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), all of whom have gotten fellow GOP members to vote with them on amendments aimed at ending Obama's immigration policies.
When Sessions won, the entire crowd of Dreamers booed. "He has no opponent," one told them. "Well, boo anyway," another replied.
They were pleased that at least one of the Republicans who was loudest on immigration lost. Brown had hammered New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for supporting immigration reform, and insisted that terrorism, Ebola and other threats were getting across the border -- or would soon -- because of the president. But Brown lost, and exit polls showed that a majority of New Hampshire voters -- 57 percent -- actually think undocumented immigrants should be able to earn legal status.
When CNN showed that Shaheen won the race, one Dreamer started a chant: "Brown is out! Brown is out!"
They were largely ambivalent about the Democrats who lost, many of whom had urged Obama to delay executive action on immigration. Arkansas Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor lost, as did Hagan. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana faces tough odds in a runoff election. The results for Alaska Democratic Sen. Mark Begich were still out, but his odds didn't look good.
Fuller turnout information will give greater clarity as to how much Latino voters played into the race in Colorado. A Latino Decisions poll released on Tuesday found that 71 percent of Colorado Latino voters favored Udall over Gardner. Some may have stayed home because of disappointment with Obama. It's impossible to say whether executive action on immigration could have saved Udall's seat, but immigration advocates think the results were proof that Obama's bid to save the Senate was a failure.
The Dreamers and advocates at the viewing party were resolved to keep pushing for executive action and fighting against negative immigration policies from the Republican Senate. For now, though, they needed some other things.
"We need some shots," someone said.
"A pep talk," another said. "We're going to need that for sure."