With GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine holding on to her seat in a hotly-contested election, Republicans on Wednesday appeared to have a strong chance to maintain control of the Senate.
Collins told reporters that her Democratic challenger, Sara Gideon, conceded in a “very gracious” phone call Wednesday. The four-term incumbent’s victory gave the GOP 48 Senate seats to the Dems' 47.
The outcome in five other races was still up in the air.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced caution before Collins’s victory became clear Wednesday.
“I don’t know whether I’m going to be the defensive coordinator or the offensive coordinator,” CNN quoted him as saying at a press conference in Louisville, Ky.
“If my math is correct and we win in North Carolina and Maine, I’ll still [be] the offensive coordinator,” he added.
McConnell himself handily staved off a well-funded challenge from Democrat Amy McGrath, securing his seventh term.
Democrats flipped two Senate seats, in Colorado and Arizona, while Republicans flipped one, in Alabama.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, unseated incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. In Arizona, incumbent GOP Sen. Martha McSally lost her seat to Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly, husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords.
Democrats had been counting on voters to be so disenchanted with President Trump that they’d go vote out enough GOP senators to give them the majority. Republicans have controlled the Senate since 2015.
But voters decided otherwise.
In South Carolina, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham fought off a serious challenge from Democrat Jaime Harrison, who had capitalized on liberals' loathing of Graham to raise more than $100 million for the race.
“To all the pollsters out there, you have no idea what you’re doing," Graham said Wednesday. "And to all the liberals in California and New York, you’re wasting a whole lot of money.”
As expected, Democrats lost a seat they’ve held for two years in ruby-red Alabama, where Trump-loving football coach Tommy Tuberville defeated one-term incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat.
“I’m going to fight like heck against [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer, [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and all the liberals in Washington D.C.,” AL.com quoted Tuberville as saying during his victory speech.
Results in Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia were yet to be determined as of Wednesday evening.
The Georgia special election between incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock appeared headed to a January runoff. The state’s other Senate race, between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, may also go to a runoff, according to CNN.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska appeared poised to keep his seat, though the Associated Press hadn’t called the race as of Wednesday night.
Democrats also came up short in Iowa and Montana.
Incumbent Republican Sen. Joni Ernst defended her Iowa seat from Democrat Theresa Greenfield, a businesswoman. The loss was a sore disappointment for Democrats, who’d hoped to flip the state for Joe Biden.
In Montana, incumbent Republican Sen. Steven Daines staved off a challenge from Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
Hopes for many Democratic priorities hinged on winning both the White House and Senate.
For months, Democrats have lamented Trump’s and McConnell’s stonewalling of appeals for billions in bailout funding for cities and states reeling from the economic impact of coronavirus.
“We can not only win the presidency … we can win the Senate,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said Tuesday afternoon. “If we can elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and we can flip the U.S. Senate, then we can govern.”
Dems also hoped voters would share their outrage over Senate Republicans' rushed effort to confirm Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
But a recent influx of cash into GOP coffers reduced the fundraising advantage Dems had enjoyed, according to Politico.
Democrats “have a staggering ability to raise money and a stunning ability to waste it,” the publication quoted Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) as saying.
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