Poll of the week: My average of Georgia polls shows the two Senate runoffs on Tuesday are within the margin of error and way too close to call.
In the race for the full six-year term, Democrat Jon Ossoff is at 49% to Republican Sen. David Perdue’s 48%.
In the special Senate election, Democrat Raphael Warnock is at 50% to Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s 48%.
What’s the point: The math is simple for Senate Democrats. If Democrats win both runoffs in Georgia, they get 50 seats overall and a majority on January 20 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie. If Republicans win either seat, they will hold the Senate majority.
Right now, Democrats may very well defy historical trends and win both races to achieve a Senate majority. If Democrats do it, they’ll probably be able to thank Republican President Donald Trump.
Indeed, this election isn’t just about Georgia and the Senate majority. It’s about Trump’s legacy. If Republicans lose in Georgia, Trump will be to blame. Republicans in purple states will have to think long and hard about being attached to Trump in the future, even after he has left office.
The Republicans should win. The Republican candidates got more votes in both the full term Senate and special Senate races this past November.
Additionally, Georgia Republicans have improved in seven of eight statewide runoffs compared to their first round performance since 1992.
Those two factors in combination should have made life difficult for Ossoff and Warnock. Instead, Perdue and Loeffler are fighting for their political lives.
It’s hard not to assign Perdue and Loeffler’s troubles at least partially to Trump. He was the weak link for Republicans running statewide in Georgia this past year. He lost by 0.2 points and his margin was more than a point worse than the Republican candidates in both Senate races.
More bluntly, Trump is the only Republican to lose a statewide race in Georgia in more than a decade.
In theory, Perdue and Loeffler do not want this race to become about Trump. Trump, however, has helped to accomplish the opposite of that.
He has very much stayed in the news in Georgia. He has attacked Georgia’s November election as fraudulent without any proof and gone after the Republican governor and secretary of state. He elevated the issue of $2,000 stimulus checks and has allowed Ossoff and Warnock to point out that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it hard for such a stimulus to pass through the Senate. (The stimulus is popular.)
Trump is reminding the few but very important split ticket voters in Georgia that Perdue and Loeffler are part of Trump’s Republican Party.
In doing so, he may be helping to change the dynamic of what normally occurs in runoffs in the Peach State.
We haven’t been seeing Republicans picking up ground ahead of the runoff like they normally do. As the averages show, it seems that the Republicans may actually be losing ground.
Republicans are probably hoping that the polls are underestimating them in Georgia like they did in November nationally. And it may turn out to be the case that the polls are underestimating Republicans. Even if they are by just a touch, it would be enough for Republicans to win.
On the other hand, the turnout we’re seeing to this point in Georgia has nothing to do with the polls.
Traditionally, you should be seeing a massive decline in turnout for a Georgia runoff.
As it turns out, the turnout level for these runoffs (over 3 million voters) has already exceeded that of any statewide Georgia runoff by about a million voters. Keep in mind, this has occurred with voting on the day of the election still to occur.
We’re likely going to see turnout at least match if not be higher than the last regularly scheduled midterm election and potentially be closer to 2020 general election presidential year turnout when all the votes are counted.
Now, it would be one thing if Trump’s antics were driving Republicans to the polls. After all, high turnout doesn’t come close to guaranteeing a Democratic victory.
But so far, the turnout swing seems to be favoring Democrats. Black voters have consistently been making up 3 to 4 points more of voters through the early voting period than they did at the equivalent points in the general election.
Meanwhile, turnout in the more White rural areas of the state has been lagging. A lot of these White rural voters are fans of Trump, and it could be that him attacking Georgia Republicans makes them less likely to want to turn out and vote.
This has left the Republican Senate candidates in a catch-22 in the state. They now need Trump to come to the state to help turn out his voters in the final days in order to make up for the poor early voting numbers in the state. This comes as Perdue is quarantining because he came into close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.
Trump may be able to boost turnout and help Republicans stagger over the finish line.
Of course, Trump’s visits may end up reminding anti-Trump Republicans why they didn’t like Trump in the first place.
If Republicans hold onto even one of their Senate seats in Georgia, Trump perhaps isn’t as toxic to Republicans as some might assume. No doubt, you’d hear Trump trumpet a Republican win in Georgia for months to come.
Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is Designing Women.