Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Control of the United States Senate Depends on Turnout in Georgia Run-Off Election

It is official.  Control of the United States Senate will come down to two run-off races in Georgia on January 5th.  If Democrats win both races, and oust the two Republican Senate incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Senate will be a 50-50 tie with Vice President Kamala Harris giving the edge to the Democrats.

Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, is the Democrat running against Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat by Republican Governor Brian Kemp.  Meanwhile, unsuccessful congressional candidate and investigative documentarian Jon Ossoff is squaring off against Perdue, who narrowly missed the 50% target needed to avoid the run-off.

These two run-off races will hinge on turnout.  The consensus of political analysts is that Perdue and Loeffler are solid favorites as Georgia is a red state and Republicans are good at turning out in special elections while Democrats often fail to do so.  

I'm not sure I agree with that consensus.  Let me say at the outset, if I had to place a bet - assuming even
Rev. Raphael Warnock

odds - I'd bet on the Republicans.  But I think the race is going to be much more competitive than those analysts think.

First of all Georgia is not that much of a red state anymore.  President-elect Joe Biden narrowly edged out President Trump in Georgia.  The Democratic Party has become a turnout machine in Georgia.  Ossoff nearly won a special election in 2017 in a solidly red congressional district and in 2018 Democrat Stacey Abrams nearly won the Governor's race.  In 2020, Democrats turned out again big time in Georgia to put Biden, barely, over the top.   While I have been a big critic of Abrams and her bogus claim of voter suppression and that her election was stolen, she is no doubt a tremendous organizer who has the Georgia Democratic turnout machine humming.

The consensus opinion favoring Loeffler and Perdue requires that Georgia Democrats go back to pre-Trump turnout levels.  That decreased turnout may happen down the road, but I'm not buying that it happens in a runoff election in which the two Georgia Senate seats decide control of the Senate.   

News reports today are that Loeffler and Perdue want as much President Donald Trump barnstorming the state as they can get.  If I were the Democrats, I'd offer to pay for Trump to come to the Peach State to help out the Republican candidates. While Trump juices Republican turnout, the President has proven that his real skill is turning out Democrats.  

The best thing for Loeffler and Perdue would be a very quiet election in which outside money and big name politicians, such as President Trump, stay out.   That's not likely to happen though.

Of the four candidates, Warnock is probably the best natural politician.  Ossoff comes across as a cold fish, often as a jerk.  Both Democrats are much too liberal for the state.  

Meanwhile, Loeffler and Perdue have condoned the worst behavior of President Trump, including, most recently, his refusal to concede defeat.  They have even demanded the Georgia Secretary of State, a Republican, resign, apparently for counting the votes honestly instead of putting his finger on the scale to help the President.  Loeffler has proven to be so extreme that, during the jungle primary, she became pals with the Qanon crowd while trying to out-Trump her Republican opponent Congressman Doug Collins.  Then you have the "insider trading" allegation that both Loeffler and Perdue bought and sold stock following a congressional briefing on the pandemic in January 2020.  Wikipedia summarizes what happened:
On January 24, 2020, the Senate Committees on Health and Foreign Relations held a closed meeting with only Senators present to brief them about the COVID-19 outbreak and how it would affect the United States.   Following the meeting Senator Kelly Loeffler and her husband Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, made twenty-seven transactions to sell stocks worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000 and two transactions to buy stock in Citrix Systems which saw an increase following the stock market crash.[2] Senator David Perdue made a series of 112 transactions with stocks sold for around $825,000 and bought stocks worth $1.8 million. Perdue started buying around $185,000 in stock in DuPont, a company that makes personal protective equipment, on the same day as the Senate briefing up to March 2.
While the Justice Department announced it had closed its investigation of Loeffler, I don't believe any such announcement has been made about Perdue.  Regardless, it is not a good look for Loeffler or Perdue.

Finally, I may be in the minority, but I don't believe control of the Senate, with the margin being so close - means that much when it comes to legislation.  Regardless of whether the Senate is controlled by Republicans and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell 52-48, 51-49 or whether the Democrats control 50-50, a President Joe Biden will have to work across the aisle.  That is even more true given the Senate filibuster requires 60 votes for most legislation.  The one area, however, where which party controls the Senate does matter, however, is judicial appointments.  Perhaps, the time will return when judicial nominees are judged on their intellect and accomplishments and not whether Senators think they will enact their favored policies from the bench?  Yeah, that's not going to be happening any time soon.

OOP's short takes:
  • Indiana's Covid-19 rates keep climbing. Today, Indiana reported 5,036, cases, a new record.  Also, 31 deaths were reported.
  • It is not just Indiana, rates across the country are skyrocketing.  We are soon on the path to have more than 150,000 cases reported in a single day. 
  • Apparently, Covid-19 wasn't a Democratic hoax that would go away the day after the election.
  • Interesting Politico article about how Catholics turning away from Trump, particularly in key swing states, cost him the election.  I'm skeptical though about the other conclusion in the article - that evangelicals turning against Trump also cost him.  The slight decrease in evangelical support mentioned in the article is just too small and well within any polling margin of error. Thus, such a conclusion is not justified by the data.
  • Biden looks like he will end up with 306 electoral votes (the same as Trump in 2016) and a 5 million vote lead in the national popular vote.  By historical standards, a close election.  By RECENT historical standards, not a close election.  We have not had a presidential election even remotely resembling a landslide since Bush-Dukakis in 1988.  In that election, then Vice-President George H.W. Bush defeated Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis 426-111 in the Electoral College and 53.4% to 45.6% in the popular vote.

1 comment:

Mark Ogden said...

Warnock and Ossoff often campaign together. Their natural constituencies (African Americans and young progressive whites) will feed off each other and increase Democratic turnout. Not sure you can say they're too liberal as neither has held elective office. Their campaigns, especially Warnock's, have been positive.

Regardless, you'll see little ticket-splitting. The differences between the Republicans and Democrats are stark, and it'll come down to turnout in rural vs urban areas. I also don't see Trump campaigning for Perdue and Loeffler. He only cares about himself and if he's not the president, he's not going to care who has control of the Senate. It'll be interesting to see the turnout without Trump on the ballot.