Decision '22

Four takeaways after Georgia’s Senate runoff: What Warnock’s win means

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Nathan Posner/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — ABC News projects that Raphael Warnock has won a full six-year term representing Georgia in the Senate, fending off GOP nominee Herschel Walker in Tuesday’s runoff.

The race attracted an avalanche of money and attention as well as record-high turnout from state voters as Democrats fought for a 51st Senate seat and Republicans vied to keep the chamber at 50-50 after neither candidate cracked 50% in the November general election, triggering a runoff.

Here are four takeaways from election night round two:

Democrats expand their margin in the Senate

Warnock’s win delivers Democrats an outright majority in the Senate, which will now be split 51-49. Democrats only control the current Senate with Vice President Kamala Harris as a tie-breaker.

With their new margin, Democrats will no longer have to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with Republicans to form a functioning Senate and will have majorities in committees, easing the path for legislation and nominees to make it to the full chamber floor.

Democratic leadership will also have a bit more leeway in navigating their caucus, which includes both progressive independents like Bernie Sanders of Vermont and centrist Democrats like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema.

In the 50-50 split, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had to ensure there are no dissenters to have successful votes.

Democrats’ increased majority is also a boost heading into 2024, when the party faces a daunting Senate map that will see them defending 23 seats, including in red states like Ohio and West Virginia, while Republicans will defend only 10, mostly in historically friendly regions.

How Warnock won

Warnock held onto his seat in part by boosting his margins in the counties in and around Atlanta, putting Walker away by pulling in numbers in the urban and suburban areas that made up his base of support. With the final ballots still being counted as of early Wednesday, Warnock was ahead by about 2% after only running ahead of Walker by 1% in November.

In Fulton County, which encompasses most of Atlanta, Warnock was winning about 77% of the vote as of just after midnight on Wednesday — compared with 75% of the vote in last month’s general election, marking a small but crucial advantage. In Richmond County, home of Augusta, Warnock won about 70% of the vote Tuesday compared with 68% last month.

Walker drew the same result or even expanded his margins in deep red rural counties, compared to November, particularly in north Georgia. But there were not enough votes there to overcome Warnock’s edge in the state’s more populous areas.

Warnock’s victory in the runoff is geographically similar to November, suggesting he won with the support of a similar coalition of voters, including Black Georgians, suburbanites and independents like a key minority of voters who split their ticket by choosing Warnock along with Republicans like Gov. Brian Kemp.

Walker’s loss extends tough cycle for Trump, Republicans

Walker’s loss continues what many in the GOP have described as a disappointing midterm cycle for them and for former President Donald Trump.

Heading into November, expectations of major victories were high given President Joe Biden’s lackluster approval ratings and voter concerns about high inflation, on top of historical trends suggesting in-power party suffers in midterm elections.

However, exit polling from November showed that while people disapproved of Biden’s job performance, they were also thinking of candidate quality and voted against Republicans who are closely aligned with Trump — like Walker, who dismissed a series of personal scandals on the trail.

What’s next

With Warnock’s projected win, the 2022 midterms are now over.

Next up on the political calendar is the start of the next Congress, in early January, followed by three gubernatorial races in 2023, in Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi. Democrats hold the governor’s mansion in the first two states, while Mississippi has a Republican governor.

Next year will also likely see a ramp up of activity in the 2024 GOP presidential primary. Trump has already launched a run, though several others, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, former Vice President Mike Pence and more, are believed to be considering bids.

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