At this time final week, it appeared like Democrats had likelihood to win management of the U.S. Senate (FiveThirtyEight’s forecast put the chances at 3-in-4). There was a transparent path. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama would seemingly lose (he did), however Democrats had been favorites to flip 4 GOP-held seats, turning the present 53-47 GOP-controlled Senate right into a 50-50 chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris because the Senate president and tiebreaking vote. There was even an out of doors likelihood that Democrats would win 52, 53 or 54 seats and have an actual governing majority.
Things aren’t wanting so rosy for the Democrats now. The occasion may nonetheless win that Senate majority, nevertheless it most likely wants an unlikely sweep in Georgia. A state that final elected a Democratic U.S. senator in 2000 would want to determine to elect two Democrats on the identical time, as each the state’s Senate seats — the one which was usually scheduled election this 12 months and a particular election to fill a seat left vacant by a 2019 retirement — head for a runoff on Jan 5.
So what occurred to Democrats’ seemingly good Senate prospects? At root, it seems like the general nationwide political surroundings will find yourself being Democratic-leaning however not overwhelmingly so — votes are nonetheless being counted, so it’s onerous to place an actual quantity on this but. The Senate’s construction provides it a Republican bias — the median seat is 6-7 share factors extra GOP-leaning than the nation, so Democrats want to essentially overperform nationally to win the chamber. And whereas the occasion did effectively in 2020, it seems it didn’t fairly clear that bar.
The most evident path for Democrats to win a majority was by gaining seats in Colorado and Maine, two states the place Joe Biden was anticipated to win handily, and in Arizona and North Carolina, two states the place Biden was narrowly favored. After all, in 2016, presidential and Senate races had been completely correlated — no Senate candidate gained a state the place his or her occasion didn’t win on the presidential stage too.
We’ll come again to the Maine race in a bit, however Colorado went as anticipated, with former Gov. John Hicklenlooper comfortably defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in a state Biden additionally gained simply. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly ran a bit forward of Biden and gained that race over incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally whilst Arizona stays too near name on the presidential stage.
But Democrat Cal Cunningham in North Carolina mainly obtained the identical share of the vote as Biden did. In each instances, that was a barely decrease share than preelection polls steered it is perhaps. Biden seems prone to fall simply quick within the Tar Heel State, and Cunningham appears prone to lose to incumbent Republican Sen. Thom Tillis as effectively, though North Carolina continues to be counting votes and ABC News has not but projected a winner in both race.
Meanwhile, though it seemed like Democrats had an opportunity in redder states if there was a powerful sufficient blue wave, these races ended up being out of attain.
Democrat Theresa Greenfield in Iowa, like Cunningham, ran about even with Biden. That wasn’t sufficient for both Democrat in more and more GOP-leaning Iowa, and Greenfield misplaced to incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst.
In Georgia, Democrat Jon Ossoff ran a bit behind Biden, however that was not a state Democrats had been relying on for his or her path to a Senate majority. Ossoff received 48 % of the vote and incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue completed just under 50 %, establishing a Jan. 5 runoff.
Republicans ended up successful simply in Senate races in Kansas, Montana and South Carolina, all states the place some pre-election polls confirmed pretty tight margins. President Trump comfortably gained all three states, and the Democratic candidates in these races, not like GOP Sen. Susan Collins in Maine, weren’t capable of enchantment to voters who backed the opposite occasion’s presidential candidate.
OK, so what about Maine? It seems Collins is sweet at politics.
Just a few Senate races haven’t but been known as, however to date, Collins is the one Senate candidate who gained in a state that her occasion misplaced on the presidential stage. How did she pull this off? It’s virtually actually the case that some voters backed Biden but additionally Collins. And that is sensible: Collins has lengthy tried to carve out her personal model as a reasonable Republican and has typically acted on that. In phrases of voting information, the Maine senator was the Senate Republican least prone to vote in step with Trump’s positions. She has damaged along with her occasion in some high-profile votes, most notably opposing the GOP’s 2017 try and repeal the Affordable Care Act and Amy Coney Barrett’s affirmation to the Supreme Court final month. In the run-up to this 12 months’s election, Collins repeatedly sidestepped questions on whether or not she was personally voting for Trump.
All of these strikes most likely helped her on this left-leaning state, even when she aggravated Maine Democratic activists by voting for Brett Kavanaugh’s affirmation in 2018 and giving a speech forward of that vote wherein she bluntly denounced her critics.
So proper now, it seems like Republicans management 49 seats (together with the North Carolina race the place the consequence hasn’t formally been projected but), Democrats 48. Let’s look carefully on the different three. It’s onerous to think about Alaska incumbent Sen. Dan Sullivan shedding in a GOP-leaning state in opposition to Al Gross, who’s formally an impartial however is being backed by Democratic Party teams. That stated, lower than 60 % of the anticipated votes there have been tabulated and the overwhelming majority of these left are absentee ballots, that are prone to be Democratic-leaning. So Sullivan’s victory is just not assured, and it might be some time earlier than an official winner is said in that race.
But Georgia is the actual story of the Senate now. Incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler was appointed to her seat earlier this 12 months, and she or he ran in a particular election wherein the highest two candidates from both occasion would advance. Democrats coalesced behind Atlanta pastor Raphael Warnock, who obtained essentially the most votes of any candidate on this first spherical, about 33 %. He didn’t actually have any robust Democratic competitors. Loeffler needed to pull forward of GOP congressman Doug Collins to make it to the runoff, and she or he narrowly did (26-20 %). So it’s Warnock vs. Loeffler and Ossoff v. Perdue in Round 2 on Jan. 5.
The Georgia races may very well be tremendous shut — a minimum of going by the outcomes of the November election. In the race for the Loeffler seat, the overall vote for the eight Democrats who received a minimum of 0.5 % help, together with Warnock, was round 48.Four %. The complete vote for the six Republicans who received a minimum of 0.5 %, together with Leoffler, was about 49.Four %. As of proper now, Ossoff is round 47.9 % of the vote, in comparison with Perdue’s 49.7 %. Biden is at 49.5 % in Georgia, Trump at 49.3.
I assume we at FiveThirtyEight will do many, many extra tales about Georgia if these two races find yourself being those that may decide management of the Senate, so I cannot delve too deeply right here into how these races would possibly shake out. But just a few days after the election, one story is obvious — Democrats can most likely solely win a Senate majority with two wins in Georgia, which illustrates the decline of their once-bright Senate hopes.