With more than 80 percent of votes in, Decision Desk reports that for the second time in less than two years, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D–Ga.) prevailed in a runoff election. Warnock's opponent, football star Herschel Walker, narrowly lost.
First elected to the Senate in a special election runoff in January 2021, Warnock has now earned a full six-year term. His victory also guarantees that not only did Democrats avoid a "red wave," but they actually gained a seat in the upper chamber.
Currently, the Senate is tied at 50 seats per party, with Vice President Kamala Harris being one of the most active tiebreakers in U.S. history. With John Fetterman's win against Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania, Republicans' dreams of retaking the Senate were dashed, and the best they could have hoped for in potentially flipping Warnock's seat was to maintain the status quo.
But Walker's unseriousness as a candidate not only severely impaired his party's competitiveness, it also undercut potential attempts to constrain the Biden administration's agenda.
While Harris' status as President of the Senate technically gives the Democrats a majority, the official 50/50 count means the parties have to negotiate an agreement on sharing power. Committees have equal members of each party, rather than a majority in either direction, meaning that Republicans can collectively hinder Democratic priorities. For example, on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republicans can delay Democrats' federal judgeship nominees. Committees that want to issue subpoenas must get at least one member of the opposite party on board.
But by gaining a single seat, Democrats can dispense with all of those extra steps and merely take power. Each Senate committee will gain an extra Democrat, giving the party outright majorities. And rather than simply act as a tiebreaker, Harris would be free to pursue her vice presidential priorities (whatever that may entail) without having to be on hand for votes.
Apart from Republican opposition, Senate Democrats also routinely face dissent within their ranks, chiefly from moderates like West Virginia's Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. While the filibuster is likely to survive, as Manchin and Sinema each oppose its repeal, an extra seat will give Democrats leeway to pursue more of the party's agenda. Rather than ensuring that every single senator is present for every vote, Democrats will be able to bear the occasional dissenter or absence.
Of course, with the House under Republican control, Democrats will not have the run of the place. By the same token, Republicans promised investigations of the Biden administration, up to and including impeachment of Biden himself or members of his Cabinet. But without a Senate majority, there would be no possibility of removal.
It did not have to be this way. Nearly every single president's first midterm elections involve the president's party losing seats. Biden remains unpopular, and Americans are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the state of the country.
But in so many competitive races, Republicans came up short after nominating flawed, illiberal candidates. Walker may have been singularly unqualified, but he was one of many poor decisions made by a party that should have had the wind at its back, going into a midterm election against an unpopular president's party.