Georgia Senate Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are believed by some to be the underdogs in the upcoming January runoff election, against incumbent candidates Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, but the election is anything but clear for a Republican sweep.
President-elect Joe Biden is expected to beat President Trump in Georgia after landing a 14,000 ballot lead prior to the hand-recount, which began Friday, but the question remains as to whether or not Democrats will be able to pick up seats in the traditionally red state.
Democratic candidate Ossoff trailed behind Perdue by nearly 87,000 votes, roughly two percentage points, while Republican incumbent Loeffler dragged behind Warnock by over 344,000 votes, a seven percent difference.
But despite the state’s historically staunch conservative stance, members of the GOP remain concerned over the tight race.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has thrown his weight in the race by donating $1 million and warning against efforts already being made by Democratic officials in the Peach State on Fox News’ Sean Hannity’s radio show.
“Stacey Abrams is trying to cook the election her way,” Graham told Hannity on Tuesday.
He also claimed Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, is encouraging people to move to the Peach State so their vote can be counted in the Jan. 5, runoff election.
“She has got a game plan, she’s signing up people to vote,” he added.
Though Perdue was ahead in his race, Democratic voters have shown they just have to turn out and vote if they want to flip the Senate seats blue.
Past runoff elections in Georgia have garnered low voter turnout, and they frequently resulted the leading Democratic candidate losing the race.
The 1992 Senate race between incumber Democrat Wyche Fowler Jr. and Republican Paul Coverdell, showed that even a candidate who nearly cleared Georgia’s 50 percent threshold on Election Day, which is required to flat out win the race, then lost in the runoff election.
And in 2008, the last time Georgia saw a runoff election, Democratic candidate Jim Martin trailed his opponent by a mere three points, only to be defeated in the runoff election by a whopping 15 points – a direct result of a lack of Democratic voter turnout.
The 2020 general election saw a new record with 4 million Georgia voters turning out, beating their last record set in 2008 with 3.9 million votes cast.
But the Peach State only saw just over 2 million votes in the state’s runoff election later that year – meaning if Democrats like Abrams continue to motivate Black voters in particular, Republicans may not be able to fend off the votes needed to maintain their Senate seats.
Warnock, who headed his Republican challenger by seven points, would be the first Black senator from Georgia if elected and may be a motivating factor for Black voters — in turn, enhancing Ossoff’s race, a strategy also highlighted in Sean Trende’s Real Clear Politics analysis.
There is also the question of “Trump voters” versus “Republican voters,” and whether not the GOP candidates will be able to rally enough voters to head to the polls, despite Trump having lost the presidential election.
Trump garnered large support because he didn’t identify as a politician, but this likely led to a large part of his base throwing their support behind him and not necessarily the party.
If the president chose to back Perdue and Loeffler, they might actually garner the support they need and get voters back out to the polls for the runoff election – though that strategy is looking unlikely.
Trump has shown little desire to throw his weight behind the GOP candidates still running for office, choosing instead to launch a series of legal battles that his campaign believes will show Biden unfairly won the Nov. 3 election.
Morgan Phillips contributed to this report.