Five takeaways from the battle for the Senate

The battle for control of the Senate won’t be decided until two runoff Senate elections are held in Georgia on Jan. 5 but the expectation on both sides of the aisle is that Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Washington showing signs of normalcy after year of restrictions Former OMB pick Neera Tanden to serve as senior adviser to Biden MORE (R-Ky.) will remain majority leader and Sen. Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden 'encouraged' by meeting with congressional leaders on infrastructure Republicans welcome the chance to work with Democrats on a bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney sideshow distracts from important battle over Democrats' partisan voting bill MORE (D-N.Y.) will spend another two years in the minority.

While party control of the chamber is expected to remain the same, the dynamic has changed with President-elect Joe BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE to take office, although not with the mandate that Democrats expected — and some Republicans feared — from a blue wave.

The Republican majority will be at least one seat smaller, as Democrats knocked off Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerBiden administration reverses Trump changes it says 'undermined' conservation program Gardner to lead new GOP super PAC ahead of midterms OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court rules against fast-track of Trump EPA's 'secret science' rule | Bureau of Land Management exodus: Agency lost 87 percent of staff in Trump HQ relocation | GM commits to electric light duty fleet by 2035 MORE (R-Colo.) and Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyEx-McSally aide pleads guilty to stealing over 0K in campaign funds Arizona state senator announces bid for Kirkpatrick's seat Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick says she won't seek reelection MORE (R-Ariz.), while Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) also lost his bid for reelection. Right now, McConnell hopes to have a 52-seat majority, depending on the outcome in Georgia.


Democrat Cal Cunningham hasn’t yet conceded to Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate hears from Biden's high-profile judicial nominees for first time Senate Democrats take aim at 'true lender' interest rate rule Former North Carolina chief justice launches Senate campaign MORE (R) yet in North Carolina, but he’s been given little chance of catching up in the vote count.

Georgia will decide the majority

If the parties split the two seats in Georgia, then the GOP majority will be 51. If Democrats sweep the state, they can control a 50-50 majority, allowing Vice President Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHere's why Joe Biden polls well, but Kamala Harris does not Immigration experts say GOP senators questioned DHS secretary with misleading chart Carper urges Biden to nominate ambassadors amid influx at border MORE to cast tie-breaking votes.

Sen. David PerdueDavid PerdueGeorgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' Warnock raises nearly M since January victory Georgia's top election official looks to shake political drama MORE (R-Ga.) will face journalist Jon Ossoff and Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerGeorgia Republican secretary of state hits Loeffler as 'weak,' 'fake Trumper' Loeffler asks Georgia attorney general to investigate Raffensperger over 2020 election Former Rep. Doug Collins won't enter Georgia Senate race MORE (R-Ga.) will match up against pastor Raphael Warnock.

Biden is leading the presidential vote count in Georgia, which Democrats see as an encouraging sign for the Senate races.

But Democratic aides and strategists concede it will be very difficult to win both races in a traditionally Republican state to make Schumer majority leader and give Democrats unified control of the White House and Congress.

Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsCDC's about-face on masks appears politically motivated to help a struggling Biden Bipartisanship has become a partisan weapon Romney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' MORE (R-Maine) and Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiRomney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' Senate panel deadlocks over Biden pick to lead DOJ civil rights division Senate GOP dismayed by vote to boot Cheney MORE (R-Alaska) will be major players


Collins, who won with 51.1 percent of the vote in Maine as of Friday afternoon, emerges as the one of the biggest winners of the 2020 election.

Despite lagging in public polls for months, she wound up beating Democrat Sara Gideon with nearly 9 percent of the vote.

Collins is a well-known moderate and a make-or-break vote on many issues next year. She was the only Republican to vote against Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettJudge Judy on expanding Supreme Court: 'It's a dumb idea' Court watchers buzz about Breyer's possible retirement Five hot-button issues Biden didn't mention in his address to Congress MORE on the final confirmation vote, and she voted with GOP colleagues to extend Trump’s impeachment trial and hear more evidence earlier this year.

The big question is whether Schumer, who gunned hard for Collins’s seat this cycle, will be able to convince her to support items on the Democratic agenda.

Murkowski is another key moderate. She voted against bringing Barrett’s nomination to the floor before the election but supported her on the final confirmation vote.

Murkowski, who kept her seat by waging an independent write-in campaign in the 2010 general election, is up for reelection in 2022.

She can be expected to support middle-of-the-road proposals such as infrastructure spending but she faces voters next cycle in a state Trump is projected to win and that could weigh on her enthusiasm for Democratic proposals coming from the House.

Murkowski has battled to pass significant energy legislation this year and with government control divided, her priorities could get more attention as Biden, McConnell and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Pelosi28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Lawmakers bicker over how to go after tax cheats House Republican: 'Absolutely bogus' for GOP to downplay Jan. 6 MORE (D-Calif.) look for common ground.

Whether Republicans keep their majority as expected or Democrats defy the odds by winning both races in Georgia, Collins and Murkowski will be key players.

Democrats will have to rethink strategy

Democrats were confident enough of winning the Senate majority that they talked about filibuster reform and threatened to retaliate against Republicans for confirming Barrett to the Supreme Court before Election Day.

Democrats raised record amounts of money and recruited a group of highly touted candidates.

Republicans had to defend 23 seats while Democrats only had to protect 12.

Senate Republicans were running into the headwinds of a weak economy, a pandemic and a president with low approval numbers. Yet, Democrats still failed to win the majority.


Schumer has had three chances to win back the Senate majority in 2016, 2018 and 2020, and come up short each time.

His colleagues are getting impatient with life in the minority and will have to think long and hard about how to break their losing streak. The first midterm of a new president is usually bad for the president’s party, which could spell trouble for Democrats in 2022 if Biden is inaugurated in January.

Money and public polls were overrated

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $244 million compared to the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s $220 million yet fell short of winning the majority.

Jaime Harrison, the Democratic candidate for South Carolina, raised $109 million while Amy McGrath, the Democrat who took on McConnell in Kentucky, raised $90 million, according to the latest Federal Election Commission reports.

Yet they wound up losing to Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamPro-Trump lawyer Lin Wood causes headache for GOP in key S.C. race GOP governors move to cut unemployment benefits as debate rages over effects Trump critics push new direction for GOP MORE (R-S.C.) and McConnell by 10 and 20 points, respectively.

Gideon raised $69.5 million in Maine compared to Collins’s $27 million, according to the FEC, and lost by 9 points.


Trump helped Republicans in some states, not in others

While Trump was generally portrayed in the media as a boat anchor around the necks of Senate Republicans up for reelection, he may have helped them win by turning out the vote in Iowa and North Carolina, which he visited before Election Day.

McConnell credited Trump’s barnstorming around the country as a key factor in motivating GOP voters to turn out in huge numbers on Nov. 3, which may have saved the Senate GOP majority.

“I think the president ran a heck of a race,” he said. “I think it also helped us in our Senate races, the places — with the exception of Maine — the places where we have the best chance of winning are the places where it looks like he won.”

But Trump appeared to hurt Gardner and McSally, particularly in the suburbs. Collins, who ran in a state that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonCongress won't end the wars, so states must Democrats say it's up to GOP to stop Trump 2024 Hillary Clinton to speak at Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders summit MORE won in 2016, defied that trend because of her strong brand as an independent forged over more than two decades in the Senate.

McConnell said Republicans need to focus on two things going into the next election, raising money from small-dollar donors and appealing to women and college-educated voters in the suburbs.

“I think we need to win back the suburbs, we need to do better with college-educated voters than we’re doing lately and we need to do better with women,” he said.