Republicans scored a victory in their quest to retake the Senate majority when the race in Wisconsin was called for incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson over his Democrat opponent, Mandela Barnes.
Democrats thought they might be able to flip Johnson’s seat blue, but they failed to do so in a close race despite spending a lot more money and sending a-listers like former President Barack Obama and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to campaign for Barnes.
Johnson began to have a lead in mid-September and was 4.2 points ahead of Barnes in the poll averages by Election Day, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Barnes is the current lieutenant governor and tried to call Johnson an “extremist” for allying with former President Donald Trump.
Barnes on the defensive
Johnson was able to use Barnes’ support for the “Defund the police” movement to paint him as too far-left to represent the state in the Senate.
He put Barnes on the defensive about crime, which has been rising in many cities since the George Floyd riots and defund the police initiatives following COVID.
The Senate now stands at 49 Republicans and 48 Democrats, with three races undecided as counting continues in Arizona and Nevada.
Adam Laxalt (R) holds a 15,000 lead over Katherine Cortez-Masto (D) in Nevada with 165,000 votes left to be counted as of Thursday morning.
In Arizona, which was plagued with voting problems, Sen. Mark Kelly (D) leads challenger Blake Masters (R) by 95,000 votes, but nearly 600,000 have not yet been counted. Still, Masters would have to get almost two-thirds of the votes left in order to overcome the deficit, and most of those are in the more liberal Maricopa County.
Control of the Senate
If Laxalt holds on in Nevada and Kelly wins in Arizona, control of the Senate will come down to a runoff in the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker, a former NFL football player.
Warnock got about 17,500 more votes than Walker, but the runoff on December 5 will take Libertarian Chase Oliver out of the picture. Oliver got 81,000 votes, so if most of those go to Walker, he can win the race.
It’s a whole new election cycle, however, and no doubt pressure will be brought to bear on voters to turn out for their preferred candidate. Last time control of the Senate came down to two runoffs in Georgia, they both went Democrat, so anything is possible at this point.