MERKLEY WINS, DEM MAJORITY REACHES 57…. Democrats get a little more good news.

Democrat Jeff Merkley has ousted Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, a victory once considered unlikely against an incumbent who had highlighted his efforts to work across the aisle in hopes of surviving a wave of anti-GOP sentiment.

Smith’s loss — the first for an incumbent Oregon senator in 40 years — means Democrats are poised to have at least 57 votes in the Senate next year. He had been the last GOP senator standing in the three Pacific Coast states south of Alaska.

“There’s a lot of work for us to do together,” Merkley told a crowd of supporters Thursday morning as they jammed a room at Portland State University and spilled into the hallway.

“It’s time for a very different approach,” he said, in such areas as health care, job creation, affordable housing and energy independence.

Smith, who had run campaign ads trying to tie himself to Obama, called Merkley this morning to concede. All of the votes are not yet counted, by Merkley enjoys a 2-point lead with votes in heavily Democratic areas yet to be counted.

There are, of course, three more Senate contests that remain unresolved — Alaska, Minnesota, and Georgia, the last of which is headed for a run-off.

Update: I had a paragraph about Merkely’s primary fight that was totally wrong. I simlpy confused Merkley with someone else, so I went ahead and deleted the completely erroneous paragraph. My mistake.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.