In the days since Joseph R. Biden Jr. was declared the presidential contest winner, vote counting and reporting has continued in states across the country, helping to clarify what the Senate will look like in 2021.
Democrats haven’t gotten the kind of blue wave they hoped for, and their ways to flip the Senate have shrunk significantly. In an election cycle where President Trump got much closer to Mr Biden than many of the polls predicted, Republicans appear ready to stick with all but two of the approximate ones Dozen seats that were deemed competitive – and they turned a Democrat seat over.
Two critical Senate races in Georgia are close to a runoff election. A third race in Alaska, in which the Republican candidate is clearly ahead, and a fourth race in North Carolina, in which the Democratic challenger has conceded, also have to be officially scheduled. With the Alaska Senate race likely to end up in the Republican column, it seems that the Democrats’ only path to a Senate majority is to win both seats in Georgia.
Here is a quick recap of what happened at Senate races across the country.
What Democrats Had to Happen
On election day, the Republicans had a three-seat advantage over the Democrats in the Senate. In order for the Democrats to take control of the Chamber in 2021, they had to swap at least three – and most likely four – seats, assuming they also won the White House.
If the Democrats took three seats, Kamala Harris as Vice President could break a 50:50 Senate tie. However, it was widely expected that Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, would lose his race in the deep red state. Realistically, most Democrats expected to move to a fourth Republican seat.
In this scenario, the Democrats also had to defend the other eleven Democratic incumbent seats to be won that cycle, including one in the battlefield state of Michigan.
What really happened
The Democrats moved two seats in Arizona and Colorado, and the Republicans moved one ‘Mr. Jones’. That leaves the Democrats with a net profit of just one seat, at least for the moment – well below what they needed.
As of Tuesday, the Republicans have secured 49 seats in the next Senate, and the Democrats, along with the two independent senators who will meet with them, have secured 48 seats.
The two races in Georgia both face a runoff election on January 5th as none of the candidates received 50 percent of the vote, the threshold under Georgian law to ultimately win. If a Republican wins any of the races in the traditionally conservative state, the party retains control of the Senate.
The Democrats held onto the other eleven seats they defended, including Michigan, where Democratic incumbent Gary Peters narrowly prevailed.
Here’s a state-to-state look at how the Senate races played out.
Mr Jones received his Senate seat in a deep red state after winning a 2017 special election against Roy S. Moore, a Republican charged with sexual misconduct.
As expected, Mr Jones lost by a wide margin to Tommy Tuberville, a Republican and former college football coach who joined Mr Trump.
As the polls had predicted, Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and retired Navy captain, defeated Senator Martha McSally, the reigning Republican in Arizona. Mr Kelly built a national profile as a gun safety attorney after his wife, former agent Gabrielle Giffords, was seriously injured in a mass shooting in 2011. He ran as a pragmatic outsider and leaned into his biography on the campaign path.
It was a second defeat for Ms. McSally, who failed her first run for the Senate in 2018 but was nominated to the vacant seat by the death of Senator John McCain by Governor Doug Ducey.
The polls were similarly accurate in predicting former Governor John Hickenlooper would defeat Colorado Senator Cory Gardner. Mr Hickenlooper, who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for president in 2019, defeated Mr Gardner by roughly nine percentage points in a state that is increasingly leaning to the left and for Mr Biden over Mr Trump.
Iowa, Montana, and South Carolina
Though Iowa, Montana, and South Carolina are traditionally all right-wing, polls had shown that Senate races in these states and the United States are close Cook Political Report rated one error each time. But Republicans easily won every race on election day.
In Iowa, Senator Joni Ernst, the incumbent Republican, sent Theresa Greenfield, their Democratic challenger, 6.6 percentage points. In Montana, Senator Steve Daines, the incumbent Republican, beat Steve Bullock, Montana’s two-time Democratic governor, by more than 10 percentage points.
In South Carolina, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, survived a challenge from Jaime Harrison, a former leader of the state’s Democratic Party, and won by 10.3 percentage points.
Perhaps no result of the Senate race has been as confusing for Democrats as the one in Maine, where Senator Susan Collins, the incumbent Republican, pushed her Democratic challenger Sara Gideon aside.
The race was one of the most difficult in Ms. Collins’ career. She faced extraordinary sums of Democratic money and anger over her decision to retrial Brett M. Kavanaugh in the Supreme Court, and polls found that she was a formidable opponent of Ms. Gideon, who is the spokeswoman for Maine’s house, for much of the Left running behind.
But it wasn’t that tight: As of Tuesday, Ms. Collins’ profit margin over Ms. Gideon was almost eight percentage points.
The Democrats were also deeply disappointed with the outcome of the North Carolina Senate race, which appeared to have narrowly ousted his Democratic opponent Cal Cunningham, a former Senator and Army Reserve officer, Senator Thom Tillis, a first-term Republican, who received that Race on Tuesday. Although there was no official call, Edison Research reported that Mr. Tillis was leading the race with just under 100,000 votes.
Like Mrs. Gideon in Maine, Mr. Cunningham had a lead in polls ahead of Election Day. The race ended with two major developments: Mr Tillis contracted the coronavirus, and Mr Cunningham got caught up in a scandal over romantic messages sent to a woman who is not his wife. While it wasn’t immediately clear what impact these developments were having on voters, Mr Trump also had a sizable head start in North Carolina as of Tuesday, which may have helped give Mr Tillis a boost.
What happens next
Two Senate races have been held in Georgia, both of which will run into the runoff election in January.
One of the races involves Senator David Perdue, a first-term Republican who tried to hold off Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. Mr Perdue’s vote dropped below 50 percent last week as more ballots were counted, forcing a showdown in January.
In the other race, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler took first and second place in a special election with 20 candidates. Neither of them got 50 percent of the vote and so, like Mr Perdue and Mr Ossoff, they will face each other on January 5th.
The competitive pair will most likely determine which party controls the Senate.