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Collins wins Maine race, narrowing Democratic chances for Senate majority

GOP Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsImpeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time MORE (Maine) clinched a fifth Senate term on Wednesday, keeping the hotly contested seat in Republican hands.

Collins's victory, which comes more than 17 hours after polls in the state closed, makes it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to chart a narrow course back to the Senate majority in 2021.

Democratic nominee Sara Gideon called Collins to concede and The Associated Press called the race shortly before 2 p.m. EST on Wednesday.

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"I just received a very gracious call from Sara Gideon conceding the race. I want to publicly thank Sara for her call. We had a good talk," Collins said in Maine.

Collins kept a steady lead in the race and stayed above 50 percent — the threshold for avoiding the race going to ranked choice.

As of early Wednesday afternoon, Collins had 51 percent of the vote compared to Gideon's 42.4 percent with 85 percent of the vote in, according to the AP.

Gideon, speaking in a livestreamed event, acknowledged defeat, saying that her campaign to oust the GOP incumbent "came up short." 

"Just now I spoke with Sen. Collins. I congratulated her on winning this election and I told her that I will always be available to help serve the people of Maine," Gideon said.

Collins was one of two GOP senators running for reelection in a state won by former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFor Joe Biden, an experienced foreign policy team Millennials and the great reckoning on race Biden chooses Amanda Gorman as youngest known inaugural poet MORE in 2016. The second, Sen. Cory GardnerCory GardnerOvernight Defense: Joint Chiefs denounce Capitol attack | Contractors halt donations after siege | 'QAnon Shaman' at Capitol is Navy vet Lobbying world Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes MORE (R-Colo.), lost on Tuesday night. 

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Collins trailed Gideon in polls for months, but Republicans didn’t rule out a come-from-behind finish. A GOP official said days before the Nov. 3 election that they believed the race, which marked the most expensive in the state’s history, was tightening in the final stretch.

The GOP senator's win is still significantly smaller than her 2014 victory when she carried more than 68 percent of the vote. But since then she sparked fierce backlash because of her 2018 vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughWhy we need Section 230 more than ever 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Murkowski says she is not considering joining Democratic caucus MORE, who faced decades-old sexual assault allegations.

Collins tried to separate her race from the ever-looming national election. She did not support President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE in 2016 and repeatedly refused to say heading into the election if she would vote for him this year. Pressed by Gideon on the issue during the final debate, Collins responded, “I’m not getting into presidential politics.”

More recently Collins was the only Republican to oppose Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster New York Girl Scouts seek to get out of lease with Trump Wall Street building Capitol Police Board — the structural flaw in leadership MORE because she did not believe a vote should take place before the election.

She's also played up her seniority in the Senate, noting that if Republicans hold onto the Senate she is in line — behind Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Overnight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Space Command to be located in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) — to chair the influential Appropriations Committee. 

"I am next in line to be the chair of the Appropriations Committee that is the most important and consequential committee post in the entire Senate," Collins told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. 

Collins, first elected to the Senate in 1997, is part of a dwindling faction of moderates in the Senate.

She signaled over the summer that she wouldn’t campaign against Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMissouri woman seen with Pelosi sign charged in connection with Capitol riots Facebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP MORE because they worked together when he was in the Senate. If Biden wins the White House, Democrats are likely to look to Collins as they try to cut deals in an era of divided government. 

"That's what I think we need more of, less polarization more pulling together," Collins said. 

Collins's win makes it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to snag a victory in the battle for the Senate and take over the majority next year.

With Maine staying in GOP hands, Democrats will hold at least 47 seats and Republicans will hold 48 seats.

Democrats are facing an increasingly narrow path to winning back the chamber.

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Aside from Maine, four other races remain uncalled and a fifth — the Georgia special election for the seat currently held by GOP Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerNikki Haley unveils PAC ahead of possible 2024 White House bid McConnell has said he thinks Trump committed impeachable offenses: report Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win MORE — is going to a Jan. 5 runoff.

Three of the-yet-to-be-decided races are held by Republicans: Alaska, Georgia where Sen. David Perdue (R) is also up, and North Carolina. The fourth seat, Michigan, is held by Democratic Sen. Gary PetersGary PetersTwo Senate committees vow probe of security failure during Capitol riots US government caught blindsided over sophisticated cyber hack, experts say Krebs emphasizes security of election as senators butt heads MORE.

Republicans are feeling bullish about chances of winning North Carolina, where Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Seven Senate races to watch in 2022 Top GOP senators acknowledge Biden as president-elect after Electoral College vote MORE (R-N.C.) has led in the polls since Tuesday night. GOP Sen. Dan SullivanDaniel Scott SullivanMcConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Senate poised to override Trump's defense bill veto OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration proceeds with rollback of bird protections despite objections | Trump banking proposal on fossil fuels sparks backlash from libertarians | EU 2019 greenhouse gas emissions down 24 percent MORE also appears to be cruising to reelection in Alaska.

If Republicans win North Carolina and Alaska, and Peters hold onto Michigan, Democrats would still have to win both Georgia races just to get to a 50-50 tie.

Updated: 2 p.m.