Georgia’s two Senate run-off elections slated for January 2021 will decide which party holds the majority in the U.S. Senate.
Georgia is one of the 9 states that requires a candidate to earn 50% of the vote to be declared the winner of a race. Incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff both narrowly missed the 50% threshold Nov. 3 with Perdue collecting 49.7% and Ossoff raking in 47.9% — sparking the run off. In the Nov. 3 special election, appointed Republican office holder Kelly Loeffler reached 25.9% while her Democratic opponent Raphael Warnock collected 32.9%.
Karl Rove, deputy chief-of-staff to George W. Bush, told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that the Georgia runoff not only holds the key to Republican control of the senate but to the preservation of conservative ideals.
“The only way to rein in the excesses of a Democratic White House and the Democratic House of Representatives is to have a Republican Senate … This is the last line of defense for conservative values,” Rove said.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, who won over 1.8 million votes in 2018, told CNN’s Jake Tapper she believes both Democratic candidates have a shot to win their races because of resources never before seen in Georgia run-offs.
“One, we’ve got Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock up at the top of these tickets working together to make certain that voters come back,” she said. “Number two, we will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats. And number three, this is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to health care and access to justice in the United States.”
“We know this is gonna be a hard fight. It’s gonna be a competitive fight,” Abrams said.
President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia makes him the first Democrat to carry the state since Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush in 1992. Biden got a big push from voters in Fulton County — home to Atlanta –, where he won 65% percent of the vote. This exceeds Hillary Clinton’s 2016 total by 6%, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Ossoff won Fulton County by 42% in 2020.
Democrats are fighting an uphill battle in both GA senate runoff races.https://t.co/gke95pab35
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) November 24, 2020
A Harvard CAPS-Harris poll of 2,205 registered voters, conducted between Nov. 17 and 19, found 56% Americans prefer a divided government after the Georgia run-offs.
An InsiderAdvantage/FOX 5 Atlanta poll released Nov. 16 found candidates in both run-offs in near dead heats. Raphael Warnock leads Sen. Kelly Loefler 49% to 48% and Jon Ossoff and David Perdue are deadlocked at 49%. The poll sampled 800 registered likely voters in the state and has a margin of error of 3.5%.
A Remington Research poll, released Nov. 8, found a similarly tight race. The poll showed Loefler leading Warnock by 1% at 49% to 48%. But there was a greater difference between Ossoff and Perdue, with Perdue leading the Democratic candidate by 4%. The poll, which was the first to be publicly released for the Jan. 5 election, measured the attitudes of 1,450 likely voters and had a margin of error of 2.6%.
Yet voter turnout in non-presidential elections is traditionally lower. Even with Biden on the ballot, Ossoff received 100,000 fewer votes than the president-elect, the Washington Post reported.
Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham pledged $1 million to Perdue and Loefler’s campaigns “to combat a tsunami of liberal money about to sink Georgia.”
“What we’re trying to do is stop the most radical agenda in the history of American politics from being enacted and Georgia stands in the way of socialism for America,” Graham said. (RELATED: Joe Manchin Tried To Disarm Republicans Ahead Of The Georgia Runoff)
Joseph Crespino, a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, wrote in a Nov. 16 Op-Ed for the New York Times that history, in terms of voter turnout, is on the side of Republicans. But, according to Crespino, Republican candidates clinging to Trump could face consequences at the ballot box.
“[Republicans] traditionally have an easier time turning out their voters, especially when a president is not on the ballot, and turnout is everything in today’s polarized political environment,” Crespino wrote. “Yet Senators Perdue and Loeffler, in doing Mr. Trump’s bidding, have turned the runoffs into a state referendum on Trumpism and its future, which may boost Democratic turnout once again.”
Similarly, Real Clear Politics analyst Sean Trende noted there could be a depression in Republican support in January, given the distinction between Republican voters and Trump voters. Trende argued that Trump voters “might be disenchanted” at the party for not going “all-in on the president’s claims of voter fraud and a stolen election.”
Trende also notes the potential impact on voter turnout if Trump expresses a dislike for either Republican candidates.
“I suspect, at least at this point, that Trump will want to run again in 2024, he probably doesn’t want to antagonize rank-and-file Republicans any more than he has too,” Trende wrote.
A Morning Consult Poll released Nov. 24 found 54% of Republicans favor Donald Trump as their preferred candidate for 2024. The next closest candidate was Mike Pence with 12%.