Control of the US Senate in limbo as both Georgia races appear headed for runoffs

Top Republicans Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham blow away challengers in show of GOP force

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 04 November 2020 09:25 GMT
Trump falsely claimed to have won Georgia where votes are still being counted

Control of the Senate could depend on who wins a pair of undetermined races in Georgia.

It could depend on how ranked-choice voting shakes out in Maine.

It could even come down to whether Donald Trump or Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins the presidential race. We may not have that answer until Friday.

Election Night did not provide Americans with any clarity on how the Senate might shake out next term, although Democrats’ path to a majority is much narrower than they anticipated heading into Tuesday.

They needed to gain a net pickup of four seats or three seats plus the presidency to take back the gavel.

But tossup state after tossup state fell into the GOP column as election results trickled in: first there was Texas. Then South Carolina. Then Iowa. Then Montana.

By 3.30am on Wednesday morning, Maine’s Senate race between longtime Republican incumbent Susan Collins and Democrat Sara Gideon was within 6 points and too close to call. Both Georgia Senate races appeared they could be headed for a runoff with no candidates receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote in either one.

And North Carolina — where Republican Senator Thom Tillis led by 2 percentage points over Democrat Cal Cunningham — accepts mail-in ballots through 12 November that were postmarked by Election Day.

What we do know is that the Blue Wave that many Democrats hoped for did not materialise.

Republicans gambled — and won — on Supreme Court battle

Senate Republicans’ decision to move forward in confirming Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett did not come back to bite them: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the two architects of Ms Barrett’s speedy confirmation, won re-election by a landslide in two of the most expensive races the Senate has ever witnessed.

"The people of Kentucky had a clear choice, and they sent a clear message. Tonight, Kentuckians said that challenging times need proven leadership," Mr McConnell said in his victory speech in Louisville on Tuesday evening.

The majority leader won a seventh term to the Senate from Kentucky after defeating Democrat Amy McGrath by roughly 20 percentage points.

“I look out for Middle America. … And I've been sent back to Washington so that working people in this country who make things and grow things and mine things and raise families in our smaller cities and towns and teach our kids our values are going to keep their voice, keep their influence and help our nation come back even stronger,” he said.

Mr Graham had framed his campaign as a fortress against Mr Harrison and the Democrats’ “radical” agenda, saying his opponent and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden were Trojan horses for a socialist agenda from left-wing radicals overtaking the more moderate Democratic establishment in Washington.

He had previously said the race was a choice between “capitalism versus socialism,” “conservative judges versus liberal judges,” and “law and order versus chaos.”

He expressed that ethos once again while taking a victory lap on Tuesday.

“To those who have been following the race from afar: I hope you got the message,” Mr Graham said. “I will do everything I can to stop the radical agenda coming from Nancy Pelosi.”

Democratic gains

But Democrats still have a chance for the majority, especially if Mr Biden wins the presidential race.

Shifting demographics and politics in Colorado and Arizona delivered Election Night victories for Democrats John Hickenlooper and Mark Kelly.

Mr Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, was beating Senator Cory Gardner by 10 percentage points there with 88 per cent of the vote counted as of Wednesday morning.

And in Arizona, Mr Kelly, a retired astronaut and gun control activist, was ahead of Senator Martha McSally by 7 percentage points with 82 per cent of the voted counted.

The Associated Press has called both races for the Democrats.

“This hasn't been a typical year, and that's why tonight is not about celebrating. Tonight is about getting to work,” Mr Kelly said in a speech on Tuesday before the race was actually called in his favour.

Georgia, Georgia

In Georgia, hundreds of thousands of ballots — concentrated in counties around Atlanta, which tends to vote Democratic — still have not been counted, leaving those races in limbo as Wednesday rolls on.

Republican Senator David Perdue was leading Democrat Jon Ossoff by 4 percentage points with 91 per cent of ballots counted. But Mr Perdue has only captured 50.8 per cent per cent of the vote. If he slips below 50 per cent, he and Mr Ossoff, who currently stands at 46.9 per cent, will go to a runoff.

That’s already where Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock are headed after neither managed to creep past 50 per cent support.

Both were dealing with other candidates in their party who siphoned away votes from them.

The Georgia special election runoff between Ms Loeffler and Mr Warnock will be held on 5 January.

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