The 2022 midterms are finally over.
Incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia won his first full term Tuesday night over former football player and Republican nominee Herschel Walker. With nearly all of the precincts in, Warnock stands at 1,814,847 votes (51.4%) while Walker received 1,719,393 votes (48.6%).
Now that the 2022 election cycle is officially in the books, the scorecard reads as follows: the Democrats gained a net of one Senate seat and two Governorships, while Republicans gained nine net seats in the House.
Therefore, on January 3rd, the newly sworn-in 118th Congress will comprise a 51 to 49 Democratic majority in the Senate and a 222 to 213 Republican majority in the House.
Just how did we end up with this result in Georgia? Well…
Campaign in Review
The one person most responsible for Herschel Walker being the Republican nominee for this race is undoubtedly Donald Trump. After all, Trump’s relationship with Walker goes all the way back to 1983, when he bought Walker’s USFL team.
The two stayed close throughout the decades, with Walker acting as a surrogate for Trump, and Trump convincing Walker to move back to Georgia and run for this Senate seat.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Republican establishment largely rallied behind Walker and avoided the type of chaotic primary that took place in states like North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The wisdom of that move is sure to be questioned, as Walker’s campaign was hampered by one scandal after another.
By November, Warnock finished about a point ahead of Walker even while Brian Kemp defeated Stacey Abrams in the Governor’s race by seven and a half points.
With a Democratic Senate majority already assured, Republicans were worried that waning enthusiasm would take a toll on Walker, so Gov. Kemp pulled out all the stops to convince Kemp-Warnock voters to turn out for Walker in the run-off.
Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama came to Atlanta last Thursday to stump with the Democratic nominee, and former First Lady Michelle Obama made a rare foray into politics by recording robocalls for the Warnock campaign.
By the eve of December 6th, both the polls and reports on the ground had Warnock with the slight advantage.
Consequences of Warnock’s Win
First off the bat, Walker’s defeat is a tough break for Donald Trump, who was already taking the lion’s share of the blame for a disappointing Republican performance in the 2022 midterms.
Then there’s the breathing room Raphael Warnock gives the Democratic Senate majority, especially when it comes to judicial confirmations.
With 51 votes now in his caucus, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can approve President Biden’s judicial nominees at an even faster pace, as a deadlocked Judiciary Committee vote can no longer hold up a nomination. With 90 judges already confirmed, another two years should help the Biden Administration as it seeks to equal or better the pace set by the Trump Administration from 2017 through 2020.
Speaking of committees, Warnock’s victory also opens up several more opportunities for his Democratic colleagues. Under the organizing resolution for the 50-50 Senate, both parties held an equal number of spots on every committee. Now, however, the Dems will have an extra seat to fill on all 16 committees.
Since there’s a minimum amount of turnover in the Democratic caucus – just John Fetterman is joining while Peter Welch replaces Patrick Leahy – there should be quite a bit of musical chairs as Senators jockey for prime positions on their preferred committees.
Meanwhile, Republicans will face the opposite problem, as they’ll lose a seat on each committee. The GOP caucus is undergoing much more turnover, though, with six incumbents leaving and five freshmen coming in; so that will give them some breathing room as they decide who will go where.
Finally, with an imposing Senate map awaiting Democrats in 2024, another seat improves their long odds of retaining the upper chamber for an additional two years.
So now we must bid adieu to the 2022 election cycle and return to the 2024 election cycle, already in progress.