Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Ogden on Politics Predicts Georgia Runoff Senate Races

I am, finally, ready to make a prediction in the two Georgia Senate run-off races that will decide control of the United States Senate.

After the general election, I believed Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were solid favorites to win the run-off election necessitated because no candidates reached 50%.  Perdue, in particular, fell only a few thousand votes short of the threshold which would have allowed him to avoid the run-off.

The Democrats have not won a runoff election in the last few decades in Georgia.  The reason is simple.  A lot fewer voters show up for the runoff than the general election which proceeded it.  That favors Republicans who are much better at going to the polls on a consistent basis.  Democrats, and particularly African-Americans who vote heavily Democrat, often skip elections that are not the main event, the quadrennial presidential election.

So Perdue and Loeffler were solid favorites in my mind...until the early vote started coming in.

As of writing this, over 3 million Georgians have cast early votes in the runoffs.  The highest turnout in a runoff in Georgia is 2.1 million.  So Georgia is already nearly a million votes ahead of its highest turnout runoff election and "election day" has not happened...or, I should say, is only today happening.  In November, 1/3 of Georgia's total vote came from votes cast on Election Day.

The three types of ballots, and who they favor is listed below:  
Absentee Ballots (heavily Democratic)
In-Person Early Voting Ballots (modest Democratic edge)
Day of Election Ballots (heavily Republican)
The characterization above applies to a battleground state like Georgia, and takes into consideration that, this cycle, President Trump has been extremely dismissive of mail-in absentee ballots and encouraged his supporters to vote in person, on Election Day.

Looking at the votes cast, and likely to be cast, I did an analysis based on the percent each party's candidates is expected to get from each tranche of votes:

For the record, just under 5 millions Georgians voted in the November election.  A 4.5 million turnout in the run-off would be an incredible turnout.  

So by the above analysis, the Democratic Senate challengers will win the election by nearly 45,000 votes.  That is actually a pretty conservative analysis.  The Dems will probably get a higher percent of the absentee ballots than 65%.  (Biden would regularly get about 75% or higher of the absentee ballots in battleground states.)  And the Democrats' 55% share of the Early In Person vote is probably a few percentage points too low.  I am also skeptical that, given Trump's constant assertion that the Georgia election was rigged against him and his beratement of Republican state wide officials, that the GOP base will turn out like usual.  In other words, I have doubts that 1.5 million voters will go to the polls today.

So my prediction:  Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock narrowly defeat their opponents, Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

Then again, I could be wrong.

OOP's short takes:
  • The idea of runoff primaries and runoff general elections when a candidate did not get 50% is a rarity in American politics and is mostly found in the Southern states with heavy African-American populations.  It was designed by the Democratic Party as a way of diminishing black voting clout at a time during which African-Americans voted heavily Republican.  There was a fear that the significant black population would vote together and nominate/elect black candidates, or white Republicans, with a plurality of the vote in multi-candidate fields.  With the run-off election, Democrats, in particular white Democrats, knew that they would always prevail in the runoff given the larger white population voting solidly Democrat.
  • The irony is that Georgia Democrats are blaming Republicans for the runoff election system that their party designed.
  • As far as those dismissing my prediction outlined above, I would remind them that in November I picked 49 of 50 states correctly in the presidential contest, including Georgia.  (I only missed North Carolina - barely.)  We don't need to discuss any of my other election predictions I made that cycle.  Irrelevant.
  • I think there might be as much as a 50% chance that Trump faces prosecution for the phone call in which he tried to pressure Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to "find" enough votes to let him win the Peach State.  The problem for Trump was that when he made the call Raffensperger was sitting in his Atlanta office.  Thus, the decision on whether to prosecute Trump will be a decision made by a Democrat, Fani T. Willis, the newly-elected Fulton County District Attorney.  A federal pardon won't stop the prosecution and Georgia doesn't have a gubernatorial pardon so Governor Kemp cannot help him.  Not that Kemp would be inclined to help Trump given how the President has attacked him.

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