Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Huge Early Vote in Georgia Run-Off Election Improves Democrats' Chances

In less than a week, on Tuesday, January 5th, control of the U.S. Senate will be decided by a dual run-off in Georgia featuring Republican Senator David Perdue v. Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler v. Democrat Raphael Warnock.  If the Democrats win both races, then the Senate moves from 52-48 Republican to 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris, the constitutional presiding officer of the Senate, who is able to vote in case of ties, giving the edge to the Democrats.

I have been on record before saying that too much is being made of the outcome of this election when it
Jon Ossoff

comes to legislation. Even with Democratic control of the Senate, a President Biden will have to pursue a very mainstream agenda anyway less he lose one of the several moderate Democrats in the Senate. Then you have the fact that the filibuster still exists, which means the threshold for many votes will be 60, not 51.

Nonetheless, control of the Senate is important in non-filibuster situations, such as votes to confirm executive branch nominees and federal judges.  Particularly judges.

Democrats are celebrating the incredible early turnout for the run-off election.  As of Tuesday morning, more than 2.3 million people have voted in Georgia via mail-in ballots or at in-person early voting sites.   That early vote total surpasses the 2.1 million who voted in the 2008 U.S. Senate election, which was previously the highest turnout for a run-off election in Georgia.   Early voting closes on Wednesday.  Then of course you have Election Day next Tuesday, when millions more will vote.  

Still 2.3 million compares to the 3 million Georgians who had voted early in the November general election at a comparable time.   It is not unexpected that there be a drop-off from the general election to the run-off.  In previous run-off elections, that drop-off has favored Republicans who have an undefeated record in Georgia in such elections.

Georgia does not register voters by political party.  (Like in Indiana, Georgia voters just register to vote....they don't register as a Republican, Democrat, etc.)  Georgia though does track race and thus far the 32% of the early voters in the run-off are non-Hispanic black, who vote heavily Democrat, compared to less than 30% of the early voters being black in the general election.  Likewise, another positive sign for Democrats is that the two Georgia congressional districts with the lowest early turnout are two heavily Republican districts in northern Georgia.

During the general election, Georgia Democrats had a 2-1 edge in mail-in votes and led Republicans, albeit by a substantially closer margin, in the in-person early voting.  Where Republicans trounced Democrats in Georgia was in the votes cast on Election Day.   But those Election Day votes were not enough to offset the in-person early vote and mail-in ballots that favored Democratic Biden. 

Expect on election night that Republicans Perdue and Loeffler hold a lead in the early count, only to see their Democratic opponents whittle that lead down as as the heavily Democratic mail-in votes are counted.  That is one reason why the Republicans are trying to aggressively use the signature match requirement in Georgia to toss out write-in ballots.  I've warned on these pages about how people's signatures evolve over time and few voter registration records are updated to reflect those changes.   It is not hard for poll workers, untrained in handwriting analysis, to find that signatures do not match, especially when those ballots are expected to favor a particular party's candidates in a contentious election.

Immediately after the general election, I would have given Perdue and Loeffler a 67% chance of winning.  With the early turnout numbers and Trump supporters like Lin Wood trying their best to discourage Georgia Republicans from participating in the run-off elections, I have lowered their chances to 55%.  The result of the race(s) may still be in limbo the next day when Vice President Pence is announcing Biden is elected President.

For the record, FiveThirtyEight's polling average has Ossoff ahead by .8% and Warnock ahead by 1.9%.  A poll released today by JMC Analytics (a B/C rated pollster) has Ossof up by 8 points and Warnock up by 9.  I don't much buy that.  What I do find more persuasive is a Trafalgar Group poll released yesterday that shows Ossoff up by 3 points and Warnock ahead by 1.  Trafalgar Group has been a very pro-Republican, pro-Trump polling outfit which almost always shows Republican candidates ahead in races even when other polls show them trailing.  

Note:  Much of the statistical information for this column came from an article in Five Thirty Eight and to a lesser degree one in Politico.

OOP's short takes:
  • Missouri Senator Josh Hawley has announced he will join with House Republicans to challenge the Electoral College results during the announcement of the vote at the January 6th joint session of Congress.  It's not a surprise that Hawley, who desperately wants to be President and who will do anything to please MAGA world (even supporting non-conservative positions and undermining American democratic values), has decided to do this.  
  • On the Bulwark podcast, Charlie Sykes has speculated that only at best 7 Senators total will support casting aside Biden electors for Trump electors.  No, I think it will be 20+ in the Senate and more than 100+ in the House.   Why?  Because it is a free vote. Those House and Senate Republicans can cast votes for Trump while knowing it won't change the result - that Biden is going to be the next President of the United States.  Sykes believes at some point those Trump-supporting members of Congress are going to rediscover their honor and integrity and do the right thing because it is the right thing.  I don't think so.
  • President Trump sought to embarrass McConnell (he's still mad at Moscow Mitch for recognizing Biden as President-Elect) by insisting that the stimulus check (hate that term) be raised from $600 to $2,000.  Trump also wanted a commission to investigate election fraud in the 2016 election and a repeal of Section 230 which shields internet services like Facebook and Twitter from liability should they allow to be published on their website something that is defamatory.  
  • So, McConnell lumped all of Trump's wishes in a single bill knowing the "poison pill" provisions regarding the fraud commission and Section 230 would kill off the much more popular $2,000 stimulus proposal.  Check Mate.  One would think Trump would have learned something about legislative procedure in four years, but apparently not.  That McConnell outsmarted dim-witted Trump is not exactly something to brag about though.    
  • A 41 year old, healthy looking Congressman-elect died of Covid-19 before he could take office.  Sadly, it is an occupational hazard that politicians have to meet a lot of people when campaigning. It is inevitable that some of the people they meet will turn out to have Covid-19.

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