Democrats secure 51-49 Senate majority with Warnock's runoff win

By Aditi Sangal, Adrienne Vogt, Elise Hammond, Maureen Chowdhury and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 8:11 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022
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6:25 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Warnock's win provides White House capstone validation that big legislative wins broke through

From CNN's Sam Fossum and Phil Mattingly

As White House officials reflected on the final Democratic victory of a history-defying midterm election cycle, one constant has been a sense of validation. 

For President Joe Biden, the expanded Senate majority clinched by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock's reelection in Georgia on Tuesday night served as a capstone driven in large part by two years of cornerstone legislative wins. 

"What you saw Senator Warnock do and what you saw Democrats do this past election is run on the president's agenda — run on an agenda that was successful," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. "This was a success for Democrats, but also for President Biden."

Legislative success will be much harder to come by in the two years to come, even with an additional Senate vote, officials acknowledge. Republicans will soon take the majority in the House and have made clear their opposition to Biden — and his agenda — will serve as an animating feature of their policy and political priorities in the months ahead. 

Still, the two years of unified Democratic control, even with the barest of majorities, played a critical role in not just blunting sweeping GOP wins, but actually gaining a seat in the Senate, according to Biden aides and congressional Democrats.

As Republicans grappled with the ever-present, disruptive and defining grip of former President Donald Trump, Democrats had an advantage in campaigns driven by legislative accomplishments. Even Democrats, like Warnock, who sought to distance themselves from Biden and his sagging approval ratings, pointed to their legislative successes. 

The victories for Biden's agenda included trillions of dollars touching nearly every aspect of the US economy, manufacturing, infrastructure and climate policy, all of which have been broadly popular when taken in isolation. 

5:00 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Walker’s defeat in Georgia delivers another blow to Trump and his 2024 bid

From CNN's Kristen Holmes and Gabby Orr

Herschel Walker, left, and former President Donald Trump
Herschel Walker, left, and former President Donald Trump (Getty Images)

Donald Trump was hoping for a win on Tuesday amid the slow start to his latest presidential campaign, believing a victory for his longtime friend and hand-picked candidate Herschel Walker in the Georgia Senate runoff would mitigate calls for new Republican leadership following a spate of losses for his endorsed candidates in high-profile 2022 races.

Instead, Trump’s first cycle as a so-called GOP kingmaker ended with one final blow to his scorecard.

Walker lost by nearly 3 percentage points to Sen. Raphael Warnock, handing Democrats a wider Senate majority than they’ve had the past two years and plunging the former president into deeper scrutiny as the GOP’s only declared 2024 contender.

“OUR COUNTRY IS IN BIG TROUBLE. WHAT A MESS!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social site shortly after several networks called the race for Warnock late Tuesday night.

One source close to Trump said the Georgia results were likely to further damage the 2024 Republican hopeful’s third presidential campaign, which has been marred by a series of self-inflicted wounds and legal troubles in the three weeks since Trump announced he was running.

“This is really, really bad,” this person said.

Many in the former president’s orbit are concerned that this will boost demand for other Republicans to challenge him for the party’s presidential nomination.

“Trump backed the wrong candidates and lost virtually all of them in the Senate in 2022. He then goes and attacks two of the most popular Republican governors, the governor of Virginia and Florida, and now he talks about terminating the Constitution. He’s destroying himself,” longtime GOP pollster Frank Luntz told CNN.

In the six states where Trump’s MAGA Inc. political action committee spent tens of millions boosting candidates with his backing, he notched only one victory: Sen.-elect J.D. Vance in Ohio, a state that has trended Republican in recent years.

Trump aides insist he remains pleased with his roughly 80% success rate for the 250-plus endorsements he doled out this cycle — many of which went to heavily favored incumbents, Republican hopefuls running for reliably red seats, or candidates who ran unopposed — even as the former president has privately complained to allies about the blame he’s facing for elevating low-caliber candidates and suggesting that many of them could have run better campaigns, sources said.

Read more here.

4:25 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Warnock brushes aside Trump's impact on runoff: "The people of Georgia deserve a great deal of credit"

From CNN's Manu Raju

US Sen. Raphael Warnock, right, speaks to the media as he walks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the US Capitol on Wednesday.
US Sen. Raphael Warnock, right, speaks to the media as he walks with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the US Capitol on Wednesday. (Graeme Sloan/Sipa USA/AP)

Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock credited the people of Georgia when asked how much he benefited from Donald Trump's involvement in selecting his opponent,

"I think the people of Georgia deserve a great deal of credit for seeing the differences between me and my opponent. I look forward to working on their behalf the next six years," Warnock told CNN.

He then walked into the Senate chamber with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

2:32 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Georgia-based activist groups take victory lap following Warnock's reelection

From CNN's Eva McKend

US Senator Raphael Warnock walks on stage at his election night event in Atlanta on Tuesday.
US Senator Raphael Warnock walks on stage at his election night event in Atlanta on Tuesday. (Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

A coalition of Georgia-based activist groups who worked to turn out the vote in communities of color across the state during the Senate runoff are taking a victory lap following incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock's reelection Tuesday. He defeated Republican challenger Herschel Walker.

The coalition, which includes New Georgia Project Action Fund, Care in Action and the Asian American Advocacy Fund, among others, say they've collectively knocked on nearly 6 million doors in just three weeks. 

"We know that Georgians are ready for progressive change. And they made that clear in this election," said New Georgia Project Action Fund CEO Kendra Cotton.

Warnock was able to successfully appeal to independents and moderates without alienating progressives, something Cotton said is seen in the senator's track record.

"Where Sen. Warnock is concerned, he has voted in what we would consider the right way on progressive policies that have impacted the lives of Black and brown Georgians across this state," said Cotton. "We believe that he's going to continue to move in that progressive direction going forward over the next six years."

CASA in Action, a Latino and immigrant advocacy group, had members from Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states to canvass for Warnock in the runoff. Additionally, Asian American Advocacy Fund Executive Director Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood said her organization was knocking on doors and helping voters get to the polls up until the last minute on Tuesday.

"The future looks bright for Georgia, in the sense that as this coalition keeps on building, we are going to be able to win statewide elections," said Luis Zaldivar, the Georgia state director for CASA in Action, before calling for federal legislation to protect voting rights. 

"We're a battleground state. We're here to stay. And we've just got to keep doing the work," said Hillary Holley, executive director of Care in Action. 

Organizers said they expect Warnock to continue advocating for student loan forgiveness, supporting immigration reform that protects DACA recipients and playing a key role in advancing Biden's judicial appointments.

2:07 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

The Georgia Senate race was the most expensive contest of the 2022 cycle

From CNN's David Wright

The final total for ad spending on the Georgia Senate race – including the primary, November general election and runoff – totaled $338.5 million, according to AdImpact data.

It was the most expensive contest of the 2022 cycle, ahead of the Pennsylvania Senate race, which saw $272.8 million in ad spending. 

Over the course of the entire Georgia race, Democrats outspent Republicans, about $194.4 million to $144 million. Incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock led all advertisers by a significant margin, spending just over $100 million alone on the campaign. 


1:17 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

How Democrats' slim 51-49 Senate majority will reshape their influence in the chamber 

From CNN's Ali Zaslav and Ted Barrett

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a news conference on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks at a news conference on Tuesday. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Democrats have now secured a slim 51-49 majority over Republicans in the Senate.

The party will have significant governing advantages compared to the 50-50 split in the current Congress, during which a power-sharing agreement gives Republicans considerable leverage over Democrats despite being in the minority.

  • Democrats will hold majorities in each committee, allowing them to process legislation and nominations much faster. Democrats will also enjoy bigger staffs and budgets, giving them more ability to carry out committee work. Committees are currently evenly split – as are the resources – allowing Republicans to slow the pace of nominees they oppose. When a choice deadlocks in committee, Democrats must take time-consuming steps to discharge that person from committee and allow a floor vote. In one instance earlier this year, Republicans used Banking Committee rules to prevent a vote from even taking place by boycotting committee sessions, ultimately forcing President Joe Biden to withdraw a nominee for the Federal Reserve. Tuesday’s result will also free up additional floor time for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to use toward other nominees and Democratic priorities.
  • Democrats will have stronger power to issue subpoenas. They will no longer need bipartisan support to issue subpoenas so they can bypass GOP opposition to using these key tools. This could increase the power and number of Democratic-led investigations.
  • Centrist Democrats may not hold as much power over Democrats’ agenda. A two-seat majority margin gives Schumer more breathing room to pass legislation without needing support from all members of his caucus – like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, moderates who will both be up for reelection in 2024. The two held enormous power in the 50-50 Senate.
  • Filling a Supreme Court vacancy could be easier. The two-seat margin could also become critical if there were to be a Supreme Court vacancy as only a majority is needed to confirm a justice to that post, allowing Schumer to lose one vote.
  • Harris might not be needed as often on the Hill. Democrats likely won’t have to rely as heavily on Vice President Kamala Harris to break tie votes on nominations and legislation, something she’s done 26 times so far in the current 50-50 Senate, the most by any vice president in modern times.
8:11 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Analysis: Here's why fewer states than ever could pick the next president

From CNN's Ronald Brownstein

The White House is seen on October 20.
The White House is seen on October 20. (Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The results of the 2022 midterm election point toward a 2024 presidential contest that will likely be decided by a tiny sliver of voters in a rapidly shrinking list of swing states realistically within reach for either party.

With only a few exceptions, this year’s results showed each side further consolidating its hold over the states that already lean in its direction. And in 2024, that will likely leave control of the White House in the hands of a very small number of states that are themselves divided almost exactly in half between the parties – a list that looks even smaller after this month’s outcomes.

Five states decided the last presidential race by flipping from Trump in 2016 to Joe Biden in 2020 – Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Democrats have already won six of the eight Senate and governor races decided across them this month and could notch a seventh victory if Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in a Georgia run-off in December.

Still, the results also showed Republicans tightening their grip on Ohio, Iowa and Florida: though Democrats won all three in both of Barack Obama’s presidential victories, each now appears securely in the GOP’s column for 2024 (and likely beyond).

These offsetting and hardening partisan strengths could, once again, provide the power to decide the White House winner to a few hundred thousand voters in a very few closely balanced states. That’s a windfall for the owners of television stations who will be deluged with television advertising in states such as Nevada, Wisconsin, Georgia and Arizona

But it’s also another reason for the prodigious stress in our fraught modern politics. Each side in an intensely polarized nation of 330 million recognizes that the overall direction of national policy now pivots on the choices of a minuscule number of people living in the tiny patches of contested political ground – white-collar suburbs of Atlanta and Phoenix, working-class Latino neighborhoods in and around Las Vegas and the mid-sized communities of the so-called BOW counties in Wisconsin.

12:35 p.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Here's how GOP senators are reacting after losing in Georgia

From CNN's Manu Raju, Lauren Fox, Ted Barrett and Ali Zaslav

Senate GOP Whip John Thune talks to CNN's Manu Raju on Wednesday.
Senate GOP Whip John Thune talks to CNN's Manu Raju on Wednesday. (CNN)

GOP senators were noticeably upset about their 2022 problems in the aftermath of their loss in the Georgia Senate runoff, calling for better candidates and contending that former President Donald Trump caused a problem on the trail.

Here's how some Republicans are reacting after last night:

Senate GOP Whip John Thune said Trump’s presence on the campaign trail created a contrast when they party wanted to keep the race focused on President Joe Biden and his policies.

“It all starts with quality candidates – there's no substitute for that – and then it's resources, and get-out-the-vote operation, messages; there are a lot of factors that go into a successful campaign and clearly we had some places this year we came up short and we need to fix that,” Thune said.

Asked if Trump was a problem for their party, Thune indicated he was.

“Well, he was of course very active in the primaries and even in the general election because he was a presence out there and in an election year where it should have been a referendum on the current admin and their policies. The Dems were in many cases able to turn it into a choice election because of Trump’s presence out there — so was he a factor? I don't think there's any question about that,” he said.

Thune added that candidates shouldn’t have campaigned on the bogus notion the election was stolen.

“A lot of the candidates who had problems in these elections were running on the 2020 election being stolen, and I don't think independent voters were having it,” he said.

Sen. Roy Blunt, a member of GOP leadership, told CNN there’s a basic problem for Republicans: “We need better candidates.”

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said, “We didn’t get our vote out for sure.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham told CNN that the GOP needs to improve its online fundraising and stop demagoguing early voting. 

“That has to change because we need to bank votes like they do. So there's a lot to learn,” Graham said.

Graham also said that Trump has to prove he can win if he’s to clinch the nomination for 2024.

“He's still very popular in the party. People appreciate his presidency. They appreciate his fighting spirit. But there's beginning to be a sense, 'can he win?' So his number-one job, I think, in these early primary states is to put together a team — a winning team — and convince people that he can close the deal in the general election. He's still the odds-on favorite, because there's a lot of goodwill in the Republican Party about Trump, but the question is about winning, we want to win. Time will tell,” he said.

Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania said GOP Georgia candidate Herschel Walker’s loss on Tuesday is “just one more data point in an overwhelming body of data that the Trump obsession is very bad for Republicans.”

“It’s just one more data point in an overwhelming body of data that the Trump obsession is very bad for Republicans but normal Republicans are doing extremely well,” he said.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah lambasted the former president's involvement in GOP primaries, warning that the party should learn that a Donald Trump endorsement "can be the kiss of death" 

 "I think President Trump has had a very substantial impact on who's going to win a primary and it hasn't worked out well," he said.

"Hopefully we'll recognize that his endorsement can be the kiss of death," Romney said.

11:45 a.m. ET, December 7, 2022

Sen. Rick Scott defends decision to stay out of primaries and says GOP needs to improve its "national message"

From CNN's Manu Raju

US Sen. Rick Scott walks through the US Capitol on November 29.
US Sen. Rick Scott walks through the US Capitol on November 29. (Sarah Silbiger/Reuters)

Sen. Rick Scott, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair, told CNN that the election losses were “frustrating” and said the GOP needs to do a better job of explaining their message. He said they need to have a “good national message” as he pushed a national agenda that Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell resisted. He said Republicans also need to improve their performance on early voting.

He defended the committee’s decision not to intervene in primaries. And even as other Republicans have been critical about their candidate quality, Scott said their candidates were “good, quality people.”

Asked if they should have engaged in primaries when the NRSC stayed out of it, he said they shouldn’t.

Well, I think we've got to rely on the voters in the states,” Scott said. “It’s their states. I trust the voters.”

Scott also steered clear of criticism of Trump and said this when asked if candidates should avoid claiming the election was stolen. “When I talked to voters, and I didn't run this time but it's good getting out there to talk to people. What they wanted to know is their votes never gonna be diluted.”