Where the Georgia Senate races stand now

The 2020 election isn’t over yet; there’s still some unfinished business in Georgia.

No, I’m not referring to Trump’s and much of the GOP’s concerted efforts to overthrow our elected government and turn America into a banana republic run by a corrupt, dishonest dictator. Although, I have say, decent and patriotic Americans will have some unfinished business with the Republican Party after the dust settles on this, to be taken care of in future elections (as in, for example, never voting for any Republican candidate for any office ever again).

The unfinished business I’m referring to is Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats, both of which were up for election in 2020 (due to one being vacant because of a resignation for health reasons), and both of which went to a runoff between the two top candidates, because nobody got 50% of the votes in either race in November.

The U.S. Senate’s composition, for the term beginning next week, stands at 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats. The GOP majority leader, Mitch McConnell, is a ruthless, intensely partisan, Machiavellian politican who, I believe, won’t sabotage the USA per se, by such stratagems as blocking every single one of Biden’s cabinet picks and all of his other nominees (especially judicial nominees), and blocking every single piece of legislation that comes before the Senate; but can be counted on to largely stymie the incoming Biden administration.

The only way to prevent that outcome is by Democrats winning both of Georgia’s Senate seats on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, which is a tall order.

It’s conceivable. The Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, have raised over $100 million each. Money isn’t everything in politics, but it helps, because it buys advertising and helps turn out voters. Their opponents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, have raised $68 million and $64 million, respectively, so the Democrats have more money than their GOP opponents. But challengers usually do need more money than incumbents. And uber-wealthy Loeffler, whose husband owns the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, and campaigns by flying around in her private jet, can dip into her own bank account if she needs more. Perdue, a former CEO, also is a multimillionaire. So, while Ossof and Warnock have more money, I don’t think it gives them an advantage in votes.

The most recent polling in these races, by Trafalgar Group, a GOP outfit, on December 29, has Ossoff up by +2 (Ossoff 50, Perdue 48) and Warnock up by +1 (Warnock 50, Loeffler 49). So, while both Democrats lead in polls, even assuming a bit of Republican pollster bias, those leads are meaningless. They’re easily within the margin of error, neither has over 50%, and as we saw in November, the polls overestimated Democratic results in elections across the country (whether because of energized GOP voters, Trumpers lying to pollsters, or — ? How knows?). I think we have to assume the Republican candidates will outperform the polls in this election, too. After all, what has changed since November 3?

Does that mean Ossoff and Warnock are toast? Not necessarily. A week earlier, on December 22, a presumably more impartial poll by Survey USA in conjunction with Atlanta-based WXIA, Georgia’s largest TV station, had Ossoff up by +5 (Ossoff 51, Perdue 46) and Warnock up by +7 (Warnock 52, Loeffler 45). That’s outside the margin of error, it’s a majority, and offers some cushion.

I doubt that 3% of the voters switched to Perdue and 4% to Loeffler in one week (and Christmas week, too). That’s just polling variation, due largely to the pollster. More credibly, the WXIA/Survey USA throws a bit of a wet blanket on the Trafalgar results.

Perdue and Loeffler are both crooks. When they learned in confidential Senate briefings how bad Covid-19 was going to be, they dumped stock, then after the news went public and the stock market crashed, and knowing (before the public did) that massive government stimulus would be forthcming, they bought it back — making millions in the process. If the SEC can prove they traded on inside information, they’ll likely go to prison, unless Trump pre-emptively pardons them, which he can do. Think Georgia’s Republican voters care about Perdue’s and Loeffler’s dishonesty? Better think again. Republican voters in general, and Georgia’s Republican voters too, have already demonstrated their willingness, even eagerness, to vote for crooks and liars.

In addition, while Perdue has been elected before, Loeffler has not; she was appointed to fill the Senate vacancy, this is her first-ever run for public office, and all anyone knows about her vote-getting ability is her 25.9% showing in November, exactly 7% behind Warnock (32.9%) on he same ballot. Between the two of them, Loeffler is more likely to lose.

What might hurt Perdue and Loeffler, though, is Trump going around saying the runoff election is “rigged” and “illegitimate” and “invalid,” which conceivably might weaken Republican voters’ motivation and prompt some of them to not bother voting in an election the Democrats are going to steal anyway. Meanwhile, Georgia election officials are reporting very high turnout, even exceeding November, in early voting. Of course, there’s no way of knowing who all those people, many of them black, voted for.

So, if you ask me who I think will win the Georgia Senate runoffs, and control the Senate for the first two years of President Biden’s term, my answer is: I don’t know. Boy, you got me. Too close to call. It could go either way, and it all depends on turnout. The Democrats shouldn’t have a prayer, but everything is going their way, and Republicans are doing everything they can to sabotage their home-field advantage. So the Democrats have a chance. If you really pushed me, I might say the Senate will end up 51-49, with Loeffler not there when Congress reconvenes, but I have no confidence in that prediction, or any other prediction, by me or anybody else.

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  1. Mark Adams #

    The amount of money in the current race is absurd. At some point such amounts have to lead to outright buying of votes. At least that would be more honest and an economic book to Georgia. Who should take out of state money all the way to the bank laughing at fools who give such money. It is only a select few in advertising, tv, lawyers, and political advising making the big bucks. It might be well to slim down on the bucks, and limit the outside money going into the state. When it appears forces outside of a state are trying to buy an election that does not play well with the actual voters.
    Maybe some folks making the dough in Georgia are hoping no candidate gets over 50% again. Assuming no candidate gets over 50% do they do it all over again? Some folks in the money are hoping for a lot of blank votes showing up.
    Proving politicians have profited from insider information in the stock market is difficult, and even when a do good prosecutor goes after this type of corruption it usually ends with charges being dropped (even when it turns out the do good prosecutor had a political ax to grind.)
    I don’t know who is going to win, but I would bet on the incumbents. Most political scientists would. There is no evidence of any kind of ground swell against those holding office in Georgia.
    Still it maybe days or weeks until the dust settles and we know the winner of one or both races. And if the outcome is yet another election, won’t that be fun.

    [An off-topic portion of this comment was deleted pursuant to Para. G of the Commenting Policy. — Ed.]