Georgia's Senate Runoffs: What You Need to Know, and Will This Time be Different?

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Texas Insider Report) — Georgia is the only state in the nation where General Elections are subject to an absolute majority threshold – meaning a statewide candidate must capture “50% + 1 Vote” in order to win an election. If no candidate does, the top two vote-getters move to a runoff. So, with President Donald Trump’s initial lead having dissipated in Georgia, incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler & David Perdue are headed to a January 5th, 2021 Run-Off Election against Democrat challengers Raphael Warnock & Jon Ossoff.

While Democrats have not won a single statewide Georgia election since 2006, that doesn’t guarantee Republican's success this coming January.

Loeffler's special election to succeed Sen. Johnny Isakson – who left the Senate mid-term in December of 2019 due to health concerns – was conducted as a “Jungle Primary” in which all candidates from all parties appear on the same ballot in the next regularly scheduled November election. In the November 3rd election, Loeffler received 26% of the vote, while Democrat Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, won 33%.

The Democrat's 2008 Collapse:

In 2008, as Barack Obama won a resounding victory in the presidential race and Democrats picked up eight Senate seats nationwide, sitting Georgia GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss faced a spirited challenge from Democrat State Rep. Jim Martin. During the general election, Chambliss won 49.8% to Martin's 46.8%, forcing a runoff which Chambliss dominated 57% to 43%.

Ask any Georgia Democrat about statewide runoffs, and they'll likely bring up 2008. Even in a great national environment for Democrats, it still wasn’t enough to even make a Georgia runoff competitive. Those 2008 races were the last statewide runoffs for a decade, and dominated how members of both parties saw the state’s political breakdown.

2018 Changed Things:

In 2018, Republican Brian Kemp narrowly avoided a runoff for Governor in his race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who captured national attention during the race for her attempt to become the nation's first Black female governor in U.S. history. Kemp narrowly won the race with 50.2% of the vote, but GOP Secretary of State nominee Brad Raffensperger and Republican Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton were both forced into runoffs against their Democrat opponents, former Cong. John Barrow and Lindy Miller.

This was when the political dynamics in the state began to change.

After the 2008 runoff, Georgia state Democrats were so unhappy with President Obama – whose 47% total in the state was the best showing since favorite son Jimmy Carter in 1980 – they they quickly became dis-spirited and were unmotivated to turn out for yet another losing runoff election.

But 2018 was no repeat of 2008.

In the runoff race for Secretary of State, Raffensperger had won 49.1% to Barrow’s 48.7% in November. In the Dec. 4 runoff, with turnout just 37% of November's numbers, Raffensperger won a close contest with 51.9% to Barrow’s 48.1%.

Raffensperger’s vote total dropped 1,141,733, while Barrow’s dropped 1,181,261, indicating a level of parity entirely unlike in 2008.

While Democrats lost, they were heartened by the fact that they’d remained close, despite the election occurring in December and without Abrams at the top of the ticket.

It gave them hope that the next time, they would be in position to win a runoff.

The January 5th, 2021 Run-Off Dynamics:

Control of the U.S. Senate now comes down to the Georgia runoffs… Kelly Loeffler vs. Raphael Warnock and David Perdue vs. Jon Ossoff. If Democrats win both Georgia Senate races, as well as the still-to-be-finalized Presidential Election, they will control the U.S. Senate chamber despite having struck out in a dozen November races which national experts predicted they would win. 

These two runoffs will be the most expensive elections of their kind in history, and each of the campaigns moved quickly to get on the air before voting began.

Georgia began sending out absentee ballots on Wednesday, and early voting starts on Friday, December 14th.

Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue hold an early advantage over the airways. Political groups have already spent or reserved more than $126 million to advertise for the 63-day-long campaign, with Republicans exceeding Democrats $77.2 million to $49.3 million, according to Kantar's Campaign Media Analysis Group.
  • Sen. Loeffler leads the pack, spending or reserving nearly $42 million in ads for her runoff race, far more than the $19 million she spent in November's general election.
  • Her challenger, Raphael Warnock has booked $24.4 million in ads so far for the runoff.
  • Sen. Perdue has set aside $19.3 million, and his challenger has earmarked $13.7 million.
Republicans led the advertising battle during the general election with the aid of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Loeffler, the co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, spent $23 million of her own money in the general, but has said she doesn't plan to spend any more on the runoff race.

Outside groups on The Left are starting to ramp up their activity in massive fashion – with out-of-state money flooding into the state in an attempt to buy the Georgia Senate seats, and with it, control of the U.S. Senate.

The Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, a Super PAC aligned with Democrat Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have said they are set to spend millions. But they will be countered by other groups on the Right, including the Georgia Battleground Fund, a joint fundraising account formed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the GOP candidates, which recently named top Republican strategist Karl Rove as  national finance chairman.

The latest TV ads in the campaign are already highlighting the national implications of the races.

One Perdue ad begins with Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer promising,
"Now we take Georgia, then we change America!"

Perdue then says he will stop polices like "Defunding the Police," which both Democrats – having learned from the results national Democrats experienced on November 3rd – now say they vociferously oppose.

Meanwhile Ossoff is on the air with an ad saying he’d work with “President-elect” Joe Biden to "beat the virus" and "empower the medical experts to rush economic relief for families and small businesses, and invest in infrastructure to jumpstart our economy."
In one of Loeffler's ads, she raises the question of whether America – showing a classroom of young students saying the Pledge of Allegiance – will still be America "if the radical left controls the Senate."

The ad shows images of mobs, flashes signs saying "Defund the Police," and plasters a 2015 quote from one of Warnock's sermons (from Dr. Martin Luther King's pulpit at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta,) in which he says Police Officers have a "gangster and thug mentality."

Another Loeffler ad attacks Warnock for honoring Pastor Jeremiah Wright in 2008, even though five years earlier Wright gave his now infamous sermon defined by three words – "God Damn America."

Initial Conventional wisdom said that Perdue and Loeffler would be heavy favorites in their respective races, due in large part to Democrats’ dismal track record in Georgia runoffs.

But as Joe Biden is close to being delcared the winner in Georgia, even if he does lose he’ll have come closer than any Democrat since disgraced President Bill Clinton did in 1992. And if Biden does win, it’s hard to imagine he’ll stay away like President Obama did in 2008.

With control of Washington, D.C. on the line, the Peach State's Senate runoff elections are certain to be the center of the nation's political universe through January 5th, 2021.