Democrats sealed control of the U.S. Senate last night when the incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto won a close race in Nevada to give the party 50 seats in the chamber, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tiebreaking vote. Democrats could still gain a true majority in the Senate, depending on the outcome of the race in Georgia. “It’s always better at 51,” President Biden said.
The Georgia contest is headed to a runoff between Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, and Herschel Walker, a Donald Trump-endorsed former football star, after neither won a majority of votes on Election Day. I asked my colleague Maya King, who’s based in Atlanta and reported on the race, what comes next.
Ian: Now that Senate control is no longer on the line, do you expect both parties to go all out in the runoff?
Maya: Republicans put in a lot of money and manpower down here ahead of Election Day, with senators and other national figures descending on Georgia in the past few weeks. But now that Democrats have won the Senate, that may dissuade Republicans from putting so much behind Walker in the runoff. There are a lot of conservatives who wanted Republicans to control the Senate but are embarrassed by Walker, who has been a source of scandal in this election, and may feel less pressure to turn out. For Democrats, it will depend on how passionate they are about re-electing Warnock and winning a 51st Senate seat. They’ll probably send a few of their best surrogates, like Barack Obama, down here as well.
What are the big issues in the contest?
National issues — inflation, the economy and crime — have animated the race. Walker’s argument has been that Warnock votes with President Biden 96 percent of the time. Warnock has tried to use his record to his advantage. Warnock, a pastor, talks a lot about writing legislation to lower insulin costs and bipartisan bills he’s co-sponsored with Republicans. He has more directly targeted moderate and independent voters, whose support he feels he needs to beat Walker. Abortion has also been a significant issue, though more because of Walker’s personal scandals. Two women have accused him of urging them to have abortions years ago.
Candidate quality has been a theme in this election. What will it mean if Walker wins the runoff?
For a lot of African Americans, Walker puts on display a lot of the worst stereotypes that white conservatives in the South harbor toward them: that his talents are only in athletics, and that he is, in his own telling, “not that smart.” If a candidate as controversial as Walker wins, the takeaway will be that if you have enough star power, speak the language of the party’s base and have Trump’s backing, you too can be in the Senate.
I was with Walker about three weeks ago in a heavily conservative, heavily white northern Georgia county. When I follow Walker to those kinds of events, we’re really the only two African Americans there. A white man walked up to me and was like, “Where are all the Black people?” He seemed to understand that Walker was a Black candidate who was not garnering much Black support in a state where you actually need at least a little bit to win. I’ve even talked to Black conservatives who are shaking their heads in disappointment. Though not on the record, of course.
Georgia had two big elections on Tuesday: the Senate contest and the governor’s race, won by the Republican incumbent, Brian Kemp. What was Election Day like for you?
I was ripping and running up and down Interstate 85. Kemp and Walker held their watch parties at different event spaces by the Atlanta Braves’ stadium. At Kemp’s, things were lively: loud music and happy people drinking. At Walker’s party, the atmosphere was nervous energy. By the end of the night, instead of drinks flowing, it smelled freshly of coffee. People were ready to pull an all-nighter.
After that, with the Senate race still up in the air, I headed to Warnock’s party. A couple of my friends in the press pool and I got a late dinner at Waffle House, and I made it home around 3 a.m. So it was quite a night.
I imagine many Georgians — the candidates, campaign staffers, voters, reporters — are exhausted.
Everyone’s tired. What I’ve heard ahead of the runoff is more than just, Oh, gosh, we have to do this again. It’s, Oh, gosh, we have to do this again over Thanksgiving, at the beginning of the holiday season. There are concerns about the logistics of it all.
More about Maya: She was born and raised in Tallahassee, Fla., near the Georgia state line, and graduated from Howard University. Watching “60 Minutes” and ABC News with her Boomer parents kindled an interest in covering Southern politics and policy.
More on the midterms
Control of the House remains undecided, but Republicans have a narrow edge. The Times is tracking close races here.
The Democratic nominee, Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, won a House seat in a Washington district that Donald Trump had carried in 2020. Her opponent had supported Jan. 6 defendants.
Election deniers were on the ballot to oversee elections in several states, but lost all but one of those races.
Blake Masters, a Trump-backed Republican, refused to concede after losing the Arizona Senate race to his Democratic opponent, Senator Mark Kelly.
Republicans face a decision: stay loyal to Trump into 2024 or leave him behind.
“President Biden presided over the best midterm elections for the party in the White House in 20 years,” Senator Elizabeth Warren writes in Times Opinion.
Other Big Stories
Going cashless has costs, including cutting out the poor, Pamela Paul writes.
“Exude an air of slight withholding”: Melissa Febos on the art of seduction.
This post-Election Day moment feels like the aftermath of Jan. 6: Republicans revolted against Trump, then went crawling back, says Maureen Dowd.
The Sunday question: Were the polls wrong again?
Partisan polls made the midterm environment seem much more favorable to Republicans than it really was, Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley writes. But higher-quality polls accurately forecast key races despite low response rates and other challenges, the pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson told Axios.
THE SUNDAY TIMES MAGAZINE
In a special Tech and Design issue, Times journalists asked people around the world: In an age of constant disaster, what does it mean to rebuild? Among the answers they found:
Puerto Rico: Hurricanes taught the country about feeding itself.
Ukraine: Architects are planning a city for when the bombing stops.
Brazil: Can a national museum rebuild its collection without colonialism?
California: Remaking the river that formed Los Angeles.
Read the full issue.
THE WEEK AHEAD
What to Watch For
President Biden and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, are scheduled to meet Monday in Indonesia ahead of the G20 summit meeting of world leaders that starts Tuesday.
Donald Trump is expected to announce his 2024 presidential campaign on Tuesday.
The 23rd annual Latin Grammys are on Thursday. Bad Bunny leads the nominations with 10.
The Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes will be sentenced on Friday on a federal conviction of defrauding investors.
On Friday, Biden will pardon the Thanksgiving turkey.