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Balance of Power in the Senate

Last Updated Dec. 7, 2022

What is the balance of power in the Senate?

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated challenger Herschel Walker (R) during the 2022 Georgia run-off race, giving Democrats a 51-49 majority in the Senate.  

Previously, Congress’s upper chamber was a 50-50 split. But Democrats flipped the GOP-held seat in Pennsylvania and won deciding races in Arizona and Nevada. The House, however, flipped to Republican control by a narrow margin.

A graph showing Democrats have 50 seats, Republicans have 49

[Virtual Event: Beyond the Midterms – Looking Ahead to the 118th Congress: Hear our experts discuss election outcomes and what they mean for policy priorities in the new Congress. Watch now.] 

How many Senate seats were up for election in 2022? 

35 seats were up for grabs, including 12 Democratic-held seats and 23 Republican-held seats. 28 senators ran for re-election, and seven senators retired, including:

  • AL – Richard Shelby (R)
  • MO – Roy Blunt (R)
  • NC – Richard Burr (R)
  • OH – Rob Portman (R)
  • PA – Pat Toomey (R)
  • VT – Patrick Leahy (D)


What was the outlook for the 2022 midterm elections?

Midterm elections typically hurt the president’s party. In 15 of the last 20 elections, the president’s party lost ground in the Senate. Although precedent favored Republicans, each party came into the midterm season with several advantages, according to Bloomberg Government analysts.

Democrat advantages:

  • Not defending any competitive open seats or seats in states Trump won in 2020
  • Targeting three GOP seats where the incumbent retired
  • Senate races are less susceptible to election waves than for the House
  • Incumbents and candidates overall reported strong 2021 and early 2022 fundraising than Republicans

Republican advantages:

  • Needed to net only one seat to take control of 50-50 chamber
  • Biden’s approval rating trended downward since April 2021
  • Targeted two seats that flipped to Democrats narrowly in 2020 special elections in traditionally GOP-leaning states that Biden also won
  • Campaign committee, aligned super PAC began 2022 with far more cash than Democrat counterparts

[Explore our Congressional Resources hub for even more expert insights.]


What were the races to watch in the 2022 Senate elections? 

New Hampshire – leaned Democrat: After a narrow win in 2016, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) successfully held onto her seat this midterm election.

Nevada – leaned Democrat: Adam Laxalt (R) lost the 2018 governor’s race by four points. He challenged incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D), whom he succeeded as attorney general in 2015. Masto was re-elected this year.

Wisconsin – leaned Republican: Sen. Ron Johnson (R) sought a third term in a state decided by less than a point in the last two presidential elections. By 3.6 points, Johnson defeated Mandela Barnes (D).

Arizona – swung Democrat: Retired astronaut Sen. Mark Kelly (D) sought re-election after winning a 2020 special election to fill the rest of the late Sen. John McCain’s term. Kelly was re-elected this year.

Georgia – swung Democrat: Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) won his second runoff race against former football star Herschel Walker (R).

Pennsylvania – swung Democrat: A tight race was held between Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and Mehmet Oz (R). By a razor thin margin, the state swung blue.

Florida – leaned Republican: Although the state went red in 2020, Rep. Val Demings (D) posted sizable fundraising numbers. Despite fundraising efforts, Republican incumbent Sen. Marco Rubio was re-elected.

North Carolina – leaned Republican: Rep. Ted Budd, a Trump-endorsed Republican, faced Cheri Beasley (D) to replace retired Sen. Richard Burr. Though the race was tight, Budd won.

Ohio – leaned Republican: J.D. Vance, another Trump-endorsed Republican, and Rep. Tim Ryan (D) competed for retired Sen. Rob Portman’s (R) seat. Despite a close race, Vance won.


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What were the policy areas impacting the Senate midterm elections?

1. Inflation and consumer prices

Criticizing President Biden’s $2 trillion COVID relief stimulus package, Republicans campaigned on curbing government spending to offset high inflation rates and consumer prices. Although Democrats pointed to falling fuel prices and the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, supply chain disruptions have continued to increase costs of goods and services, such as groceries, rent, and travel expenses. Despite economic volatility, Democrats held onto their Senate majority.

2. Violent crime, immigration, and gun control

GOP ads highlighted high violent crime rates and immigration issues, which historically have driven Republicans to voting booths. However, while on the campaign trial, Democrats gave voice to tragic mass shootings that have skyrocketed in recent years across the country and highlighted the recent bipartisan gun legislation as an example of what they can accomplish within the realm of public safety.

3. Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade

After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, concerns over same-sex marriage and contraceptive rights arose, sparking national discussions surrounding privacy rights and the 14th Amendment. Democratic candidates believed these themes would motivate voters during midterms. Abortion rights played a large role in the election results – which is partially why the “red tide” never materialized and Democrats maintained control of the Senate.



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