2020’s election was not the “blue tsunami” that many Democrats had hoped for. Biden failed to take swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio, and Donald Trump, despite losing, obtained the second-most votes of any candidate in American history, sending a message to the country and the world that Trumpism will remain strong and relevant for years to come.
Democrats had also hoped that they would gain a majority in the Senate, as polls showed the vulnerability of Republican incumbents like Susan Collins in Maine and Thom Tillis in North Carolina. The dream of taking a three or four seat majority in the Senate soon crumbled, however, as both won reelection a few days after Election Day. And yet, the Democrats’ hope of breaking Mitch McConnell’s grip on the Senate remain alive. They must win both Georgia runoff Senate races on January 5 to make the Senate an even 50-50 split, with Vice President Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker.
Democrats face an uphill battle—but not an impossible one—in this once-red state. It is true that the Reverend Raphael Warnock beat Kelly Loeffler by around 344,000 votes. But the Democrats need to win both seats, and the GOP’s Senator David Perdue technically beat Jon Ossoff by 80,000 votes. So why are both races having a “rematch,” so to speak? Under Georgia law, the event of neither candidate getting 50% of the vote triggers an automatic runoff election. Reverend Warnock didn’t come close, obtaining 32.9% off the vote, compared to Loeffler’s 25.9% and Republican Doug Collins’s 20%. Since a run-off only takes the top two candidates from the original election, we can expect the majority of Doug Collins’ voters to side with Loeffler, making the election closer. On the other side, the rush of left-leaning mail-in ballots dragged Senator Perdue’s percentage down to 49.7%. Both of these events have set the stage for January.
Let’s take a closer look at both races. Reverend Warnock, born in Savannah, was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. throughout his childhood, and studied to become a baptist minister. In 2005, he became the Senior Pastor of Martin Luther King’s former church, the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. He has led discussions on climate change, worked on the New Georgia Project to raise the number of voter registrations in his state, and fought to expand the ACA. In contrast, Loeffler comes from a business background, and was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp after Senator Johnny Isakson resigned in 2019. Aligning herself 100% with Trump, she has attacked China for the Coronavirus, looks to ban abortion, and has recieved an “A” grade from the NRA.
The second Georgia Senate election sees a moderate, Obama-like Democrat take on another Trump Republican. Ossoff supports the ACA but opposes a single-payer system, wants to end prison sentences for nonviolent drug crime but refuses to support defunding the police, and wants to fight for both an easier pathway to citizenship and tighter border security. Ossoff also supports statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. He faces Senator Perdue who, after winning the seat in 2014, has emerged as a top ally of Trump’s, much like Loeffler. Perdue wants to repeal the ACA, and opposes both same-sex marriage and legal immigration; in 2017, he co-sponsored the RAISE Act, which would have cut legal immigration in half. In October, he came under fire for intentionally mispronouncing Kamala Harris’s first name during a Trump rally.
The candidates from both races could not be more different, and the stakes could not be higher; the Republicans need to defend the Senate to act as a buffer against a blue House and Presidency, while two Democrat victories would mean a blue trifecta for the first time since 1981. Who will win? Polls have Warnock with a slight lead over Loeffler, and Perdue with a slight lead over Ossoff. But due to the polls’ lack of accuracy this election cycle, it is impossible to know right now. Only time will tell.
By David Traugott