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Democrats projected to keep control of the Senate

(NewsNation) — After a hard-fought campaign that included 35 races, NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ projects Democrats will at least retain their slim majority in the U.S. Senate, and could possibly expand it.

Days after the polls closed, Decision Desk HQ projects incumbent Democrat Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto and Mark Kelly of Nevada and Arizona, respectively, will keep their seats. This puts the Democrats at a projected 50 seats, which is effectively a majority with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

But they may be able to secure a 51st seat if Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock defeats Herschel Walker in a runoff election next month.

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The first sign Democrats might be able to keep control of the Senate came from Pennsylvania. Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat Republican Mehmet Oz, clinching a seat from the crucial battleground state.

The race was seen as a nail-biter, and the parties spent accordingly. It was one of the most expensive races in the country, with more than $300 million spent.

Oz, a doctor and television celebrity, became the Republican nominee partly due to the intervention of former President Donald Trump, who backed him in the GOP primary. Fetterman, on the other hand, coasted to victory in his own Democratic primary. But Fetterman had a stroke in May; the status of his personal health following his recovery quickly became a campaign topic, especially after the only debate between Fetterman and Oz back in October.

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In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock will face Republican Herschel Walker in a runoff next month, as the state requires in races where no candidate receives a majority of the votes.

As in Pennsylvania, Trump played a key role in endorsing Walker during the Republican primary and helped elevate him as a nominee. The former University of Georgia and professional football player was widely known in Georgia as an athletic icon, but he had no previous experience in politics before running for Senate.

The Associated Press’ VoteCast exit poll found that a majority of Georgia voters said the partisan tilt of the U.S. Senate was the single most important factor driving their vote, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. When asked who had strong moral values, 54% of those polled said Warnock had them, while 42% said Walker did.

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Some Senate races that were expected to be close did fall into GOP hands. In Ohio, venture capitalist and “Hillbilly Elegy” author J.D. Vance notched a larger-than-expected win against Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.

In the days after the election, politicians fixed their gaze on the toss-up races in Arizona and Nevada that would decide the Senate makeup.

Still, when paired with gaining fewer House seats than expected, Democratic wins in the Senate led GOP leadership to question whether former President Donald Trump is a positive or negative influence on voters.

Former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan went so far as to call Trump a “drag” on the Republican Party.