Georgia Showdown: Senate Control on the Line in Runoff Battles

Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue at a campaign event with President Donald Trump at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Ga., December 5, 2020. (Dustin Chambers/Reuters)

A corporate turnaround artist and free marketeer who vows to “stop the Left’s radical, socialist agenda,” or a liberal journalist and film company CEO who says “Georgia is ready for change.”

A conservative farmgirl turned Wall Street executive who deems her campaign a “firewall against socialism,” or a “pro-choice pastor” with a penchant for promoting left-wing activism from the pulpit of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. used to preach.

Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler or Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock: Those are the choices in front of Georgia voters when they head to the polls Tuesday for the state’s runoff U.S. Senate election. Ostensibly Georgia voters will be picking their state’s representation in Washington, D.C., but as anyone with a basic understanding of national politics knows, these races are about much more than that. Georgia voters aren’t just choosing two senators, they’re choosing which party will control the U.S. Senate for at least two years.

More than 3 million Georgians have already voted early in the runoffs, either in person or by mail. Election Day turnout will likely be the key to determining the direction of the country.

The most recent poll in the state shows both races in a dead heat.

The Democrats need both Ossoff and Warnock to win. If they do, there will be a 50–50 tie in the Senate, which would make Vice President–elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote, and would give Democrats control of the chamber and unified control of elected power in the nation’s capital. The Democrats already control the House of Representatives — narrowly — and Democrat President-elect Joe Biden will be inaugurated January 20.

The implications for control of the upper chamber have attracted an avalanche of donations in recent weeks: In the last two months alone, Warnock and Ossoff have raised over $100 million each while Perdue and Loeffler have brought in $68 million and $63.9 million respectively. Finance and real-estate executives eager to preserve a pro-business climate in Washington have donated generously to the Republican candidates while Silicon Valley and Hollywood liberals have poured money into the coffers of Warnock and Ossoff.

Republicans need to win one of the two races to maintain Senate control and to serve as a check on the Democrats’ more ambitious left-wing agenda.

If Ossoff and Warnock win, it is likely that Democrats in Congress will try to increase federal revenues by raising corporate taxes and increasing tax rates on higher-earning families.

While a single-payer health-care system would likely be a stretch with such narrow Democratic majorities in Congress and intraparty squabbles, both Ossoff and Warnock have spoken favorably of strengthening the Affordable Care Act and including a public option.

Ossoff, the 33-year-old CEO of a London-based documentary film company, supports banning the sale of semiautomatic rifles, and he believes that anyone who wants to purchase “high-powered weapons derived from modern military technology should be required to demonstrate high qualification and specific needs.” Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church and a student of black liberation theology, has been critical of gun rights in sermons.

Pro-life Republicans worry that if Democrats take control of the Senate, they could scrap the so-called Hyde amendment, which bars federal funding for most abortions. Both Ossoff and Warnock support abortion rights, and Warnock drew scrutiny from some Christian leaders when he declared himself a “pro-choice pastor” who will “stand up for reproductive justice.”

Warnock has refused to say whether he would support packing the Supreme Court with progressive justices. During an early December debate, he would say only that he’s “really not focused on it.”

Perdue and Loeffler — both corporate executives with rural roots — say they’re trying to save America from the Democrats’ socialist agenda. They’re both pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-business.

“The future of the country is on the ballot,” Loeffler told supporters at a campaign stop last week. “The entire country is counting on us.”

One key to Republican victory will be getting President Donald Trump’s rural supporters to the polls. Many of them believe Trump’s controversial claims that the November election was rigged against him, and they are furious at the state’s Republican establishment.

Some alleged Trump allies, including Atlanta’s conspiracy-theorist attorney L. Lin Wood, have been urging Trump’s supporters to boycott the election. Trump, who rallied with Loeffler and Perdue last night, has urged his supporters to ignore Wood’s call for a boycott.

Trump likely didn’t do the Republican senators any favors when he called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger saying he wanted “to find 11,ooo-plus votes” — meaning identify the votes that Trump insists were illegitimate and mistakenly counted for Biden — and remove those votes from Biden to reverse Trump’s loss in the state. Continuing to ramp up false allegations that the election was stolen from him might further discourage the already dispirited Republican base.

Rural Republicans who spoke with National Review last week said they intended to vote for Loeffler and Perdue, despite their concerns about election integrity.

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Ryan Mills is an enterprise and media reporter at National Review. He previously worked for 14 years as a breaking news reporter, investigative reporter, and editor at newspapers in Florida. Originally from Minnesota, Ryan lives in the Fort Myers area with his wife and two sons.


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