Georgia Senate runoffs minus four days

A preview of Wednesday’s (AEDT) Georgia Senate runoffs that could give Democrats Senate control. Also: anti-democratic nuttiness from Trump and Republicans.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

After the November election, Republicans had a 50-48 lead over Democrats in the Senate. The final two seats, both in Georgia, went to runoffs that will be decided on Wednesday AEDT. If Democrats win both of these contests, they will tie Republicans at 50-50 in the Senate, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast the tie breaking vote.

One of the Georgia Senate contests was a regular election, while the other was a by-election. In the November regular election, Republican David Perdue won 49.7% to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 47.9%, with the 2.3% for a Libertarian denying Perdue the 50%+ he needed to win outright.

The November by-election was a “jungle” primary, in which candidates of the same or different parties compete against each other on the same ballot paper. Unless one candidate wins an outright majority, the top two, regardless of party, proceed to a runoff. Democrat Raphael Warnock won 32.9%, with Republican Kelly Loeffler getting the second runoff spot with 25.9%. Republican Doug Collins was third with 20.0%, with most of the remaining votes going to Democrats. Overall vote shares were 49.4% for all Republicans to 48.4% for all Democrats.

After being heavily criticised for understating Trump again, most pollsters are avoiding the Georgia runoffs. The FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate has both Democrats moving into slight leads, with Ossoff leading Perdue by 0.9% and Warnock leading Loeffler by 1.8%.

New York Times analyst Nate Cohn says that early voting has been better for Democrats than in November, partly due to a higher Black share of the electorate than previously. Of course Republicans could have a big election day, but this data is positive for Democrats.

Polls in Georgia close at 11am AEDT Wednesday. In November, the counting was slow in Georgia, with initial results strong for Republicans owing to a rural bias. The suburbs around Atlanta did not start reporting until late on election night.

Trump and Republicans’ anti-democratic nuttiness continues

The day after the Georgia runoffs, there will be a joint session of both chambers of Congress to certify the Electoral College results. In previous elections, this certification has been a formality, but that won’t be the case this time.

On December 14, Joe Biden officially won the Electoral College by 306 votes to 232, the same margin as expected; there were no faithless electors. All of Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud have been soundly rejected by the courts.

Despite this, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley and Alabama Republican House member Mo Brooks say they will object to results in states Biden won narrowly. According to this Los Angeles Times article, if objections are filed by members of both chambers of Congress, the chambers must adjourn to separately debate and vote on the objections. Votes will be on the public record.

As Democrats hold the House majority and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell opposes the objections, there is no chance of voiding Biden’s Electoral Votes. But CNN correspondent Jake Tapper says that two Republican House members told him they expect at least 140 House Republicans to object (about two-thirds of the Republican House caucus).

There have also been calls for Vice President Mike Pence, who will retain that office until January 20, to unilaterally refuse to count Electoral Votes from states Biden won narrowly. The Trump-aligned pollster Rasmussen approvingly quoted the Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin in urging this course. However, Pence is seeking the dismissal of a case that was filed to expand his power.

48 comments on “Georgia Senate runoffs minus four days”

  1. Thanks AB for the summary.

    I have read that some are telling Trump supporters to not bother voting, since the elections are “rigged”. I wonder what effect that might have on the split between Democrat and Republican votes, particularly since voter turn out so far has been higher than ever. Might that imply the split to the Democrats is even higher than polls might indicate?

  2. I’m not too optimistic about these races. Most likely outcome, in my view is R’s win both. If one D wins, I think it will more likely be Warnock than Ossoff. Despite the current theatrics, most Republicans are pretty consistent with turnout, whereas Democrats are fickle and drop-off in turnout in elections where there isn’t a presidential race, especially run-offs.

    But there is some hope for me being pleasantly wrong. The GOP infighting, Perdue and Loeffler getting painted as “traitor” Republicans by some in the extremely pro-Trump camp might eat into their support, also the Democrats are taking these races extremely seriously and are employing their heavy-hitters (including the President and Vice President – elects) to close the race. Also, the Democrats have been smart this time and are focusing on local issues and issues like COVID and economic relief (such as reminding voters the reason they’re not getting economic stimulus is because of McConnell and the GOP Senate majority), rather than delving into discussions about expanding the courts or defunding the police.

    Although I should point out the Republicans have also been pushing some decent messaging too, mainly sticking to the line of “We need to keep Biden in line with some balance from the Senate” and the always useful “If Democrats get the majority, extremists take over etc.”

  3. As for the planned theatrics regarding the presidential elector count, while it won’t make a difference with the outcome of this election, the troubling thing is how much it potentially could be normalised as a legitimate action for future elections. The US media are not helping in this regard, almost playing it up as politics as usual with some going as far to “both sides” this.

    If such a tactic becomes normalised, if the GOP get a majority in both houses but the Democrat wins the White House, they will just overturn the result (assuming their House Majority comes with a majority of delegations which, due to the number of small red states, it probably would) and I wouldn’t trust the media commentariat to just shrug it off as “That’s politics, Republicans were more hungry for the win, Dems can’t complain because they challenged Florida’s count in 2000 etc.”

  4. The Bernie Babies seem to have to decamped from the blog so I will fill in.

    “If ONLY the Democrat establishment neoliberal goons had nominated Bernie Sanders and Adam Bandt for these Senate seats they would have won in a landslide. I am utterly across the zeitgeist in Georgia. Despite never having been there. It. Is. Clear. Georgia wants Socialism in precisely the way I understand the term. The votets of Georgia want what I want and the elctoral success or failure of the Democrats will equally attest to it.”

  5. I wonder how many Democratic slates of electors the hardline pro-Trump Republicans will challenge? Only the ones the Trump campaign challenged in court or will they go all out and challenge all Democratic electors (massively slowing the count)?

  6. Tom, I assume it will be Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin amd Michigan.

    It will be instructive to see how many Republicans vote agaainst reality. How many want to discard democracy in favour of an all American coup.

  7. Biden won 24 states and DC outright, with split votes in Maine and Nebraska. If all states with Biden electors are challenged, that is 54 hours of houses debating separately and combined with combined counting sessions and splitting and re-joining time and possibly overnight adjournment, counting could take multiple days, creating an extended sense of chaos around the process.

  8. Tom the first and bestsays:
    Saturday, January 2, 2021 at 11:32 pm

    Delaying of Biden seems to be the key here.

    1. Delaying the process to continue what Trump is doing behind the scenes (Pardoning, Money Laundering, Court Cases etc).
    2. Delaying Biden coming president to allow him to have more chances to win something and creating more fear/doubt and uncertainty.

  9. What happens on the 6th isn’t going to delay anything. The current presidential term is set to end at noon on the 20th January, DC time (as it does every four years, as prescribed by the constitution.) In theory, the actions of GOP congresspeople can determine who is president after that point but they don’t have the numbers to do that. Biden and Harris will be confirmed on the 6th and take office at noon on the 20th (and not a minute earlier or later.)

  10. Even if all 50 States and DC are challenged, which is unlikely as it would involve challenging states Trump won, they likely do not have enough delay ability to delay Biden taking office. Chaos, Biden delegitimisation and proof of loyalty to Trump are the aims.

    I would also not put it past Trump to argue that the noon on the 20th of January transition is in local time, so the transition takes place over multiple hours.

  11. 3z, I liked Bernie but most people can concede by now that the events of 2020 represent a sound rejection of his program. The majority of Americans (or at least the electorate) like the country as it is now, not much point whining about it.

  12. Senate Democrats criticized their GOP colleagues after a group of 11 Republicans announced they would oppose the Electoral College results when Congress meets on Wednesday.

    A number of Democrats said the group, which includes Republican Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Ron Johnson (Wisc.), James Lankford (Okla.), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Kennedy (La.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and others, is undermining the electoral process by vowing to vote against accepting the election results until there is a 10-day audit.

    Congress will meet for a joint session on Wednesday to certify the Electoral College tally, which found President-elect Joe Biden the victor of the White House race.

    “Joe Biden will be inaugurated on January 20th, and no publicity stunt will change that,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a statement issued Saturday.

    “For a group of my Republican colleagues to claim that they want an additional federal ‘commission’ to supersede state certifications when the votes have already been counted, recounted, litigated, and state-certified, amounts to nothing more than an attempt to subvert the will of the voters.”

    “This pathetic, opportunistic stunt is an attack on our democracy. It’s un-American & unconscionable. Votes have been counted, recounted, certified, & all challenges totally discredited. Time to govern & get things done,” added Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.).

  13. I don’t think debate over the objections can be sustained for long. It appears that each speaker is allowed five minutes, with two hours total for debate. This probably applies to each separate challenge to states.

  14. The Democrats should be outright denouncing these Republicans for trying a coup to overthrow the will of the people. Court challenges are one thing – they might have been specious but it’s the right of Trump and co to bring them, have their days in court, and lose. But at this point the Republicans are trying to steal the election and they can’t let the Republicans keep claiming to be the ones fighting a “steal”.

  15. On the subject of the actual Georgia elections, I think everyone will assume the Republicans will win both seats despite everything – maybe win with Purdue but lose with Loeffler if you’re an optimist – and certainly despite polling. If the Democrats win both, it changes a lot but it will come as a genuine and welcome surprise.

  16. Delaying of Biden seems to be the key here.
    Posturing is key here. These Republicans are jockeying to commandeer Trumps base. It is disgusting.

    FWIW, from what little I have seen in the US MSM, the general theme is that these Republicans are despicable; trashing democracy and the constitution for private gain.

  17. Simon Katich @ #23 Sunday, January 3rd, 2021 – 8:41 pm

    Delaying of Biden seems to be the key here.
    Posturing is key here. These Republicans are jockeying to commandeer Trumps base. It is disgusting.

    FWIW, from what little I have seen in the US MSM, the general theme is that these Republicans are despicable; trashing democracy and the constitution for private gain.

    Yes, and I’d go further. The open cynical incitement to overthrow the result is seditious. But from what little I understand, and everything I’ve read, the election is over. The Presidency is decided. Only the ceremonies remain. Congress gets to discuss it if they want. Pence gets to count envelopes and announce a winner if he wants. And none of it makes a difference to the Presidency. Even the inauguration is just a ceremony. Biden becomes POTUS at noon on January 20. Trump is an ex-POTUS walking. (Only the next GA Senators are still to be decided.)

  18. Our last Federal election saw middle income workers support L/NP for promised tax cuts of bugger all coming years into the future. Even oldies with no shares voted to protect franking credits.
    The voters of Georgia are offered $600 by the Republicans or $2000 by the Democrats. Money, immediate, already almost in their account.
    Personal greed in Australia would make this a landslide result.
    Can’t believe a big chunk of voters will knock back $1400 no matter what the reasons given.
    And then there is Trump, ever helpful.

  19. Georgia’s voting systems manager on Monday delivered an impassioned point-by-point repudiation of President Trump’s numerous claims of fraud and malfeasance in the 2020 presidential election while urging voters to look past the president’s rhetoric and “turn out to vote.”

    Speaking to reporters at the Georgia state Capitol, Gabriel Sterling warned that the president’s rhetoric threatened to suppress turnout in the state’s two upcoming Senate runoff elections.

    “Given the nature of the president’s statements and several other people who have been aligned with him previously…we are specifically asking you and telling you: please turn out and vote tomorrow,” said Sterling, a Republican who has emerged as a regular critic of Trump’s allegations.

    Sterling’s remarks came a day after explosive news broke of a phone call in which Trump pleaded with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to “find” enough votes to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in the state.

    In that call, Trump repeated a series of baseless allegations and conspiracy theories, arguing that he won the presidential race in Georgia, despite Biden notching nearly 12,000 more votes.

    At one point, Trump seemed to suggest that his supporters may not vote in future elections, saying that people “don’t want to vote, they hate the state.”

    Georgia election and law enforcement officials have carried out a range of investigations into alleged voter fraud and malfeasance on the part of election workers and have uncovered no evidence to back up Trump’s claims – a point that Sterling repeated on Monday.

    “It’s whack-a-mole again. It’s Groundhog Day again,” he said, referring to the numerous press conferences the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has held in recent months to address election-related allegations from Trump and his allies.

    Sterling pushed back against the president’s accusations, one by one, saying that Trump had not only eroded confidence in the democratic process but threatened to dampen turnout among the very Republican voters that Sens. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and David Perdue (R-Ga.) need the backing of to win their respective runoff elections on Tuesday.

    “This is all easily provably false, yet the president persists, and by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the election systems, especially Republican Georgians in this case,” Sterling said.

  20. If Democrats win both Georgia Senate races, Biden needs to immediately appoint 3 new Supreme Court judges. One required to review the electoral system, one to check all changes to Corporate tax laws during the last 4 years and one to investigate the former President who needs to pardon himself because of his criminal activities past present and future.
    Will keep them all busy for their lifetimes.
    Don’t need to hear anything along the lines of they go low, we go high. Or we need to forgive and forget all bad things to unite the nation. Or Trump was a one off looney, will never happen again.

  21. Is it true that Victoria is testing air crew and getting positive hits at a rate of 8 per 1000?
    Are all states and territories automatically testing all air crew?


    The Democrats would need to have more Senators to add Justices to the Supreme Court as some have expressed opposition to expanding the court and/or the bypassing of the filibuster (which would be needed to get the legislation through the Senate). So all the Democrats winning both Georgia seats guarantees, if that is what happens, is no government shup down and an easier time for democratic nominations for executive and judicial positions.

    Supreme Court Justices are not appointed to deal with specific matters, they are appointed to deal with any matter brought before the court.

    The majority of the Democrats suffer from the delusion that not retaliating at Republican aggression makes the Republicans less aggressive is pursuing their goals.

  23. Tom the first and best @ #31 Tuesday, January 5th, 2021 – 2:46 pm

    So all the Democrats winning both Georgia seats guarantees, if that is what happens, is no government shup down and an easier time for democratic nominations for executive and judicial positions.

    Their plan could be something like:

    1. Impeach Kavanaugh and do a proper investigation and hearing into the attempted rape allegations against him (or threaten him with that if he won’t resign willingly).
    2. Strike a deal with two of the non-Trumpy conservative justices to have them resign early (maybe they’ll go if promised a more moderate/less liberal nominee to replace them).

    Three justices to Biden, with the Trump cohort reduced to just two. Balance restored and no need to fiddle with the number of justices. But does require coercing one justice out and persuading two more.

  24. a r
    I cant see those things happening. Expanding is the only way out and it will have to be done in a way to get the support he needs from the Senate. He would have to sell it as a way to depoliticise the court and nominations to it. A vast majority of Republicans will see this as a deliberate attempt to change the political balance of the court that they have fought long and hard to tip in their favour. And they are correct. But maybe, just maybe, some of them (and all of the democrat senators) will see the benefits to the US overall of a better SCOTUS system. The chances are around abouts Buckleys. However, Biden has said he will create a bipartisan commission to look at reforming the court. Perhaps, just perhaps….

    It still wouldnt solve the core problem of an archaic constitution that is impossible to change in the current hyper partisan paradigm.

    2022 is a reasonable senate election year for the DNC. If they can keep people engaged for the next two years something might come of that. A super conservative SCOTUS with some high profile cases might help the 2022 cause. But you can be damn sure that states controlled by Republicans are gonna go all out with gerrymandering, voter suppression and stacking electoral boards. It is not easy to win elections when nearly 50% of the politicians and about 30% of the voting public are authoritarians.


    No Republican Senators will vote for any SCOTUS reform that would allow more Democratic appointments or hinder the Republican appointees on the Court. A panel and conference system, as is used in the appeals courts, might have an outside chance at getting through but without any court expansion.

    The Supreme Court is about to move right on many issues and is likely to take up may more controversial cases that have previously not got through because the hardline conservatives did not vote to bring the case before the court because they did not trust Roberts to side with them. The Second Amendment is likely to be one area of much action.

  26. Guns and abortions are, unfortunately, secondary issues atm. Electoral reform is the main game to ensure fair and free elections. But even that will be mired in political reality and any changes will end up in SCOTUS.

    I am pessimistic. Unless the Republican party rips itself apart I see few good options. A competent autocrat Republican will be hard to beat in 2024. Especially with 4 years of the Republican red states rigging everything they can with full SCOTUS support.

  27. From The Guardian:

    Numbers update: With about 13% of ballots in, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are slightly ahead of their Republican opponents.

    Warnock has 282,257 votes to Kelly Loeffler’s 251,190 votes, representing a 5.8-point advantage.

    Ossoff has a similar edge over David Perdue. While Perdue has 264,871 votes, Ossoff has 288,960 votes, so the Democrat is leading by 4.4 points.

  28. NY Times Needle has both Democrats slightly ahead at this stage, with the early vote count ahead of expectations. On the other hand, election day vote is higher than expected, which is something for GOP voters to hold on to. It’s gonna be close, either way.

  29. Around 50% of ballots counted now, and both Dems hold decent, though not insurmountable, leads – Warnocke leads Loeffler by 53.6-46.4 and Ossoff leads Perdue 53.2-46.8.

  30. Warnock in front by 35k, Ossoff trails by something less than 500. Appears to be Dekalb’s entire stack of absentee ballots still to count. 🙂

  31. I suspect we can call both of these races for the Dem candidates now, just like the NYT Needles have suggested all along. A 50-50 Senate (with Kamala Harris as the tie-breaker) is a huge plus for incoming President Biden, and means that some genuine reform is now at least possible. And it also recalibrates the results of November’s general election, which can now be seen more clearly for what they were, a repudiation of Trump and Trumpism.


    With not enough Democrats willing to reform the filibuster on current numbers, only taxation and spending based reforms (through reconciliation bills) and appointments (presuming Republicans don`t change the rules before the new senators from Georgia take their seats) have any likelihood of getting through without significant Republican support. Medicare/Medicaid expansion (limited to 10 years as they would be spending increases), undoing some of Trump`s high income and corporate tax cuts and possibly expanding the types of guns covered by the National Firearms Act (on the grounds the NFA is the basis for the transfer tax of (currently) $200) might get through without Republican support but little else will.

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