- The Democratic Party has regained control of the Senate, according to projected results from two critical runoff elections in Georgia.
- The Senate currently consists of 51 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with the Democratic Party.
- Since Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock won their respective runoffs for Georgia Senate seats, the party will have 50 Senate seats and effective control of the upper chamber because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will hold the tie-breaking vote.
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The Democratic Party won control of the Senate following the projected results of two crucial runoff elections in Georgia held on January 5.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are projected to win their respective races against incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
The Senate will now consist of 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with the Democratic Party, resulting in a 50-50 split. But Democrats will effectively control the chamber because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holds the tie-breaking vote.
In the 2020 election, 33 Senate seats were up for grabs, and Democrats had a good chance of flipping seats in their favor in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina. Seats in Georgia, Iowa, and Montana were also in play for the party.
The Senate map was stacked against the GOP in this election cycle. Of the 35 senators up for reelection, 12 were Democrats and 23 were Republicans.
Since Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama was widely expected to lose his seat, Democrats needed to pick up four seats to get to a 50-50 tie and five seats to gain a majority.
Democrats' most likely path to a majority was to win back seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina, and to pick up an additional seat in Georgia, Iowa, Montana, or Kansas to get to 51-49, according to election forecasters. Republicans also had to defend 10 seats in competitive races, while Democrats only had to defend two.
Democrats ultimately flipped seats in Colorado, Arizona, and Georgia and lost hotly contested elections in North Carolina, South Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and Montana.
Democratic activists, lawmakers, and fundraisers made a huge effort to get out the vote as early as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and more people voted by mail and early in person in last year's election than at any other point in recent history.
The Georgia runoffs also saw huge turnout. According to the US Elections Project, more than three million people voted early in-person or by mail before Election Day, which is roughly 39% of all registered voters in the state.
But Republicans were in a bind in terms of both policy and strategy.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused concurrent healthcare and economic crises, and President Donald Trump and the GOP failed to fulfill their campaign promise of repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and replacing it with another healthcare plan, even with control of the House and Senate in 2017 and 2018. The White House also promised for months to release a healthcare proposal, but never did.
Republicans' accusation that President-elect Joe Biden would usher in socialized medicine fell flat given the candidate's opposition to Medicare for All and strong support for Obamacare, which Biden has promised to expand with a public option.
While Trump inherited a strong economy when he took office, and oversaw historically low unemployment rates for several years, his economic approval rating fell before the election.
In the weeks leading up to the Georgia runoffs, Trump and his allies also ginned up baseless claims that the 2020 election was "rigged" and "stolen" from him and that the results were illegitimate. All the while, most of the mainstream Republican establishment was either silent or actively supported the president's conspiracies.
In Georgia, the Republican Trump-supporting lawyers Lin Wood and Sidney Powell urged voters to boycott the runoffs because, they said, the races were already "rigged."
At a "Stop the Steal" rally in the state last month, Wood told a crowd of Trump supporters not to vote for Loeffler and Perdue.
"Don't you give it to them," he said. "Why would you go back and vote in another rigged election, for God's sake? Fix it! You've got to fix it!"
"I would encourage all Georgians to make it known that you will not vote at all until your vote is secure — and I mean that regardless of party," Powell said. "We can't live in a republic, a free republic, unless we know our votes are legal and secure."
Members of the Republican establishment quickly distanced themselves from Powell and Wood and told voters to ignore them. But it wasn't just fringe actors who stirred up controversy for the party.
Ronna McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, appeared to face a messaging crisis of her own making last month as well when, after weeks of throwing her support behind the president's claims, she struggled to persuade Georgia voters who believed the election was rigged to participate in the Senate runoffs.
When a Trump supporter echoed the president's baseless allegation that voting machines were tampered with and illegally switched votes from Trump to Biden, McDaniel responded, "We didn't see that in the audit, so we've got to just … That evidence we haven't seen, so we'll have to wait and see."
At another point, a voter asked why they should put in "more money and work" when the two races were "already decided."
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