Heavy hitters and big dollars from both national parties have been pouring into Georgia for a race that will determine the balance of power in the Democratic-controlled Senate next year.
If Republican Herschel Walker prevails, the parties will again split the Senate 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing a tie-breaking vote and Democrats the slightest possible advantage.
Democrats will control the chamber after the party’s incumbents held their ground and Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman picked up a seat held by retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey.
But this is still a race full of consequences.
In the short term, a Sen. Raphael Warnock victory would deliver more power to Democrats as they seek a firmer grip on the procedural life of the Senate, which could help them confirm more President Joe Biden nominees in an expeditious manner. West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin would also lose some of his leverage if Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had a vote to spare, which could hold added significance, given Manchin is facing reelection in 2024.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, spelled out the stakes on last week.
“Having an evenly divided Senate means that you get equal representation on committees,” Thune said. “We’ve been successfully able to bottle up some bad nominees at the committee level. So (the Georgia race has) got real consequences.”
Thune also conceded that his party could use a morale boost after underperforming expectations in the midterms, despite narrowly gaining control of the House.
“It’d be nice to get a win on the books, and especially in a state like Georgia, where, frankly, we think we should be winning,” Thune said.
Beyond that, looking ahead to the next election in 2024, Republicans – already with a more favorable map than this year – would be better positioned to win back a majority, perhaps a significant one, if Walker can pad their numbers now.