On January 5, control of the US Senate will be decided in two Georgia runoff elections. If Democrats win both races, both parties will have 50 senators each, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker in any party-line votes.
If just one of the two Republican incumbents can hold onto their seats, however, the GOP will keep control of the Senate.
In the first race, Republican Sen. David Perdue is facing off against Jon Ossoff, perhaps best known for his failed attempt to flip Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District in 2017 (Representative Lucy McBath succeeded the following year and still holds the seat now). In the second race, Rev. Raphael Warnock is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Warnock is the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, renowned as the place where Martin Luther King Jr. preached in the 1960s.
It’s difficult to predict how runoffs and special elections will go. But though Republicans are favored, the races could be tight, as Vox’s Ella Nilsen reported:
If conventional wisdom is to be believed, Perdue and Loeffler are the likely favorites to win. Georgia leans Republican, and its voters haven’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in 20 years.
Even though Biden narrowly won Georgia in the presidential election, this isn’t necessarily a good indication of Democratic strength in the Senate races. The data we have shows that Perdue ran slightly ahead of Trump by about 780 votes. Ossoff, on the other hand, ran close to 100,000 votes short of Biden.
The stakes of this election are high. If one or both seats remain Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holds on to power and will be able to exercise veto power on the new administration’s priorities. A Republican majority could even block nominees to President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet and other Senate-confirmable positions. If Democrats are unsuccessful, Biden will be the first president since George H.W. Bush to begin his term without control of all three branches of government.
But Perdue and Loeffler have struggled to clearly articulate the stakes of losing the Senate to Georgians as President Donald Trump has continued to falsely insist that he won the presidential race. It’s hard to tell your supporters that you’re the only thing standing between them and radical socialism if you can’t admit that Trump lost.
However, the day after Thanksgiving, Trump announced on Twitter that although the election was a “total scam,” he would be heading to Georgia to campaign for “David and Kelly.” It’s tough to predict how the state’s voters will respond to these competing messages and which groups will end up turning out to vote.
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