The Associated Press has announced Republican incumbent, Sen. Ron Johnson as the winner of the U.S Senate race over Democratic challenger, Mandela Barnes.
Johnson won with 50.5% of the vote to Barnes’ 49.5, a difference of around 27,000 votes, according to the New York Times.
Barnes took the early lead in the race, but incumbent Johnson closed the gap as more votes came in.
At his watch party in Neenah, Wisconsin, Johnson and supporters cheered as the numbers continued in his favor throughout the night. Johnson took the stage at 1 a.m. — unwilling to declare victory until all of the votes were officially in. However, he felt confident that the race would be called in his favor.
"We've looked very closely at the numbers," said Johnson, according to Wisconsin Public Radio. "We feel very confident that there's no way that they can really make up that gap.”
The Senate race has been close throughout polls over the last few months. The most recent Marquette Law Poll, published last week put Johnson slightly ahead of Barnes with 50% of votes compared to 48%. The race remained consistent with these polls, staying close throughout the night.
In the past 19 midterms, the President’s party has only gained seats in the U.S. Senate six times. This typical midterm advantage, along with polls favoring a Republican Senate across the country, made it a hard year for Barnes to take on the incumbent in the Senate.
Barnes ran a strong campaign throughout the primaries, entering the general election with wide Democratic support, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, Johnson, first elected in 2010, was eager to paint a negative image of the Barnes campaign, according to NBC News.
Johnson’s campaign was supported by voters prioritizing crime and economic issues, while Barnes had strong support from voters concerned with reproductive rights.
The general election was full of attack ads and heated debates. Republicans tied Barnes to concern over increasing crime rates, causing Democrats to respond by calling some of the ads racist. Countering the ads, Barnes launched a campaign titled “Ron against Roe,” highlighting the conservative senator’s support for statewide and national abortion bans.
The candidates also went head to head during the second debate in October on issues such as social security and Medicare. Although Barnes criticized him for wanting to make the programs up for annual deliberation, Johnson stuck to his claim that he was trying to save them.
With Johnson’s win, the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, setting up another four years of partisan gridlock with the reelected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.