NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 5th, 2021

Both Georgia Senate races ridiculously tight; Democratic challengers favored to win

As I write this, it is almost mid­night in Geor­gia, the Peach Tree State, whose vot­ers are in the unusu­al posi­tion of hav­ing end­ed up with the abil­i­ty to decide whether the Unit­ed States should have a func­tion­ing Con­gress for the next two years or an obstruc­tion­ist Sen­ate con­trolled by Mitch McConnell.

Geor­gia law requires that can­di­dates receive a major­i­ty of the vote in the Novem­ber gen­er­al elec­tion to win. If that does not hap­pen, the top two vote get­ting can­di­dates advance to a post-Novem­ber runoff.

In both of the state’s 2020 U.S. Sen­ate races, no can­di­date received a major­i­ty of the vote, whilst in oth­er states, Democ­rats knocked out two Repub­li­can incum­bents while los­ing one of their own. That left the Repub­li­can cau­cus with fifty seats and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus with forty-eight, with Geor­gia’s two seats alone left to be decid­ed before Joe Biden and Kamala Har­ris’ inauguration.

Geor­gia has long been a solid­ly Repub­li­can state that votes Repub­li­can in fed­er­al races. It vot­ed for Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, Mitt Rom­ney, and Don­ald Trump in 2016. But last year, Geor­gia vot­ers nar­row­ly backed Biden for Pres­i­dent, deliv­er­ing a long-await­ed tri­umph for Democ­rats in the South.

That vic­to­ry — which stunned Repub­li­cans — set the stage for these Sen­ate runoffs to be as fierce­ly con­test­ed as any fed­er­al elec­tions ever have been. Enor­mous sums of mon­ey were com­mit­ted to the con­tests and both sides deployed large armies of field teams to turn out their supporters.

So far, the result has been a near draw. With close to one hun­dred per­cent of the vote in, the can­di­dates in each race are locked in a near tie. Repub­li­can David Per­due has a slight advan­tage in his race over Demo­c­ra­t­ic chal­lenger Jon Ossoff; Repub­li­can Kel­ly Loef­fler is los­ing to her chal­lenger, Rev­erend Raphael Warnock.

Over 4.2 mil­lion votes have been count­ed, yet nei­ther can­di­date in either race has more than 50% of the vote. And, remark­ably, hun­dreds of thou­sands of bal­lots are still await­ing tabulation/reporting, most of them from Demo­c­ra­t­ic counties.

The New York Times gives Warnock and Ossoff a more than 95% chance of win­ning, though Warnock­’s lead is tiny and Ossoff has not regained his yet.

That the Democ­rats could even make a pair of runoff elec­tions in a south­ern state this close is some­thing many polit­i­cal prog­nos­ti­ca­tors would have dis­missed as an utter fan­ta­sy just a few months ago, or even a weeks ago.

Sign in Georgia: Georgia turned blue, Senate should too

Sign in Decatur (Mid­way Woods): Geor­gia turned blue, Sen­ate should too Pho­to: Thomas Cizauskas)

But as Joe Biden likes to say, Amer­i­ca is about pos­si­bil­i­ties, and that’s cer­tain­ly true of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics. The real­i­ty is that what is con­sid­ered “real­i­ty” can be changed through hard work and strate­gic invest­ment. Democ­rats have always been capa­ble of blaz­ing their own paths and seiz­ing their own destinies.

Yet, only recent­ly has the par­ty start­ed to tru­ly embrace the notion of every race, every place and fund the year-round, big orga­niz­ing work required to allow the par­ty to prop­er­ly com­pete in elec­tions such as these Geor­gia Sen­ate runoffs.

Biden and Har­ris’ extra­or­di­nary vic­to­ry in Novem­ber was cru­cial in help­ing to lib­er­ate Democ­rats in Geor­gia and beyond from the kind of self-defeat­ing mind­set that has plagued them in the past. Instead of sim­ply going through the motions, the par­ty com­mit­ted itself to vic­to­ry. Demo­c­ra­t­ic activists did the work. Demo­c­ra­t­ic donors com­mit­ted resources. And Demo­c­ra­t­ic vot­ers turned out.

Should Warnock and Ossoff suc­ceed in pulling this out, it will go down as one of the biggest tri­umphs in the his­to­ry of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Party.

After lack­lus­ter per­for­mances down­bal­lot in the Novem­ber 2020 elec­tion, the par­ty will have risen to the occa­sion in the eleventh hour and secured for the coun­try a bare Sen­ate major­i­ty capa­ble of sweep­ing Mitch McConnell out of pow­er and allow­ing Joe Biden and Kamala Har­ris to get their new admin­is­tra­tion up and run­ning more quick­ly than they would have been able to otherwise.

That’s still an if, of course. Pre­dic­tions and fore­casts are not results.

But Democ­rats have already proved some­thing just by get­ting this far in Georgia.

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