Democrats take control of the Senate

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 6:12 PM ET, Wed January 6, 2021
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12:12 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Hip-hop artists Jermaine Dupri and Jeezy are trying to get out the vote in Georgia

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Jermaine Dupri speaks during a drive-in campaign rally for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on December 5, 2020 in Conyers, Georgia.
Jermaine Dupri speaks during a drive-in campaign rally for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock on December 5, 2020 in Conyers, Georgia. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

As focus turns on Georgia senate runoffs, Atlanta hip-hop artists Jermaine Dupri and Jeezy have been working to get voters to turn out.

"I had humble beginnings and I understand my influence," Jeezy told CNN. "For the longest time, my culture feels like we've been alienated from politics. So now we have a say. So I just want to make sure we all understand that our vote counts, our voices count and our numbers count."

A Biden-Harris supporter, he said Democrats winning the Senate seats is important for Biden to deliver on his promises for the Black community.

"At the end of the day, we're not trying to split the world. We just need what we need as a people, and that's it," he said. "It's about a particular group of people that need a little more tender loving care ... Our neighborhoods are the ones plagued with crime, the ones people are evicted from their homes, the ones kids can't go out to be safe because we're not set up for that. So we're just asking for the things that make sense for us."

Dupri said the activism is not new to Georgia.

"We all have been active one way or another without actually getting paid to do this, without actually even doing interviews and all this type of stuff. It's just something that we do in the city," he said.

WATCH:

10:25 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

What you need to know about GOP Senate candidate David Perdue

From CNN's Clare Foran

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Republican David Perdue is fighting to keep his Senate seat in Georgia amid a challenge from Democrat Jon Ossoff. 

Perdue, who was elected to a six-year Senate term after winning election in 2014, is one of two Republicans attempting to fend off a Democratic opponent in a pair of high-profile Georgia runoffs whose outcome will determine control of the Senate in the new Congress.

The other race features Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Democratic opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock.  

Perdue’s campaign has emphasized his close ties to President Trump and his business background prior to taking office in the Senate.

The Georgia Republican has accused his Democratic opponent of pushing a radical, socialist agenda, while Ossoff, in turn, has painted Perdue as an out-of-touch Washington insider willing to sell out his constituents. 

When Perdue declined to participate in a December debate, Ossoff showed up anyway and used the platform to call out Perdue for not attending. 

In the closing days of the race, Perdue went into quarantine after learning that he had been in close contact with an individual who had tested positive for Covid-19. 

10:00 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

As Georgia heads to the polls, you can catch up on the race with the CNN Political Briefing podcast

Today's two crucial Georgia runoff elections are happening today — and they will determine which party controls the Senate.

You can catch up on the latest developments in the races and meet the four candidates vying for the two seats with the CNN Political Briefing podcast, hosted by David Chalian.

Listen to the four-part series focused on the Georgia races below:

9:35 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Meet Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock

From CNN's Clare Foran

Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Democrat Raphael Warnock is challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler for her seat in a hotly-contested Georgia runoff election that will determine which party controls the Senate.

At the age of 35, Warnock was chosen in 2005 to lead Ebenezer Baptist Church, and has since taken on issues in Georgia like overhauling the criminal justice code, and expanding voter registration and Medicaid.

Loeffler has tried to portray her Democratic opponent and the leader of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic church in Atlanta as too far to the left. 

Warnock, in turn, has said that Loeffler wants to divide Georgia, and distract from her opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the health care insurance it provides amid a pandemic.

During a December debate, Loeffler repeatedly referred to her Democratic opponent as a "radical liberal.”  

"Listen, I believe in our free enterprise system," Warnock said after Loeffler asked if he would renounce socialism and Marxism. 

Warnock, for his part, targeted the GOP senator over stock transactions that have been a subject of intense scrutiny for their timing related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Addressing Loeffler, he said at the time, "You dumped millions of dollars of stock in order to protect your own investments."

Loeffler responded by saying, "I've been completely exonerated. Those are lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda."

10:45 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

House Democrat says there "could very well be criminal charges" brought against Trump over Georgia call

Rep. James Clyburn speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 5.
Rep. James Clyburn speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 5. CNN

As Georgians head to the polls for runoff elections today, Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn shut down any prospect of impeachment after President Trump pushed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a call to "find" votes to overturn the election results. 

“It would be a waste of our time here in the House to pursue impeachment. I suspect if all that I heard on this tape is to be investigated, there could very well be criminal charges brought by state and local governments down there in Georgia…and I would hope that that would be pursued. That is something that can be pursued even after Jan. 20,” Clyburn said on CNN’s “New Day.” 

“I would hope that the House of Representatives would spend its time concentrating on getting ready for this new administration and getting our House in order in order to deliver for the American people so that we can get beyond this pandemic,” Clyburn added.

During a rally last night, Trump also said he hoped Vice President Mike Pence would "come through for us" in the vice president’s largely ceremonial role in certifying the 2020 presidential election results. 

“We know what the results are … For the President to be calling upon the vice president to do something to unravel this is just beyond the pale,” Clyburn said. 

Watch Rep. Clyburn on New Day:

9:44 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

This lifelong Republican says he voted for a Democrat for the first time in today's Georgia runoffs

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Georgia resident Joe Swaney speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 5.
Georgia resident Joe Swaney speaks with CNN on Tuesday, January 5. CNN

Resident Joe Swaney just cast his vote for the Senate runoffs in Smyrna, Georgia. A lifelong Republican, he said this was the first time he ever voted for a Democratic candidate.

"Just because there are issues regarding our environment, regarding taxation, regarding diversity issues and so forth that I think need to be addressed. And I'm hoping they will be, with a Senate that can actually help, encourage and enact President Biden's policies," he told CNN.

While Swaney found the discourse leading up to this election has been "discouraging," he says he tried to ignore it and focus on the issues that he cares about. Finally, it was about exercising his right as a citizen and making his voice heard.

"There's a responsibility I have as a citizen of the United States to come out and exercise my right to vote," he said Tuesday. "I know that the entire country is looking at Georgia right now as to what our decision's going to be. So I needed to at least make my voice be heard."

Watch Ryan Young's Interview:

9:13 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

The future of America's economy is also at stake in today's runoff election

From CNN's Matt Egan

Georgia isn't just the center of the political universe. It's center stage on Wall Street, too.

The Peach State's Senate runoffs will decide control of the US Senate — and that in turn will play a pivotal role in shaping the economic recovery as well as the investing environment.

"It is impossible to overstate how critical these races are for fiscal, tax and regulatory policy over the next two years," Chris Krueger, policy analyst at Cowen Washington Research, told clients in a report Monday.

A sweep by Democrats would open the door to more powerful fiscal stimulus that the shaky economy may very well need. But it would also raise the risk of corporate tax hikes that investors despise.

Until recently, Republicans were expected to retain control of the Senate by winning at least one of the Georgia races.

However, the odds of the Democrats retaking the Senate have surged in prediction markets in recent days and weeks — a point that investors are just awakening to. If Democrats sweep in Georgia, they will effectively control the upper chamber of Congress, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the deciding vote to break any 50-50 stalemates.

"Control of the Senate is a 50/50 chance in either direction," Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst at Raymond James, wrote in a note to clients Monday.

Bettors on PredictIt, a prediction market, are paying just 55 cents to win $1 if the GOP keeps control of the Senate. That's down sharply from 87 cents on Election Day and 75 cents in late December.

Given the "totally unprecedented nature" of the election, Krueger said, "the Georgia races are a "jumpball."

Read more here.

9:07 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Here's a look at Sen. Kelly Loeffler's time in the Senate and election campaign

From CNN's Clare Foran

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is fending off a challenge from Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock in today's high-stakes Georgia runoff election. 

The race is one of two Senate runoffs where Republicans are facing Democratic opponents hoping to flip seats from red to blue. The other matchup is between Republican David Perdue, who was elected to a six-year Senate term after winning election in 2014, and Democrat Jon Ossoff. 

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler in 2019 to fill the seat left by the retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, and she was sworn in in January 2020. She is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange and she is a co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream.

Loeffler has attempted to portray her Democratic opponent as a radical who is too far to the left. Warnock, in turn, has said that Loeffler wants to divide Georgia, and distract from her opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the health care insurance it provides in the middle of a pandemic.

During a December debate, Loeffler repeatedly referred to Warnock as a "radical liberal,” while he countered by saying that he believes “in our free enterprise system.” 

Warnock targeted the GOP senator over stock transactions that have been a subject of intense scrutiny for their timing related to the coronavirus pandemic. He accused Loeffler of having “dumped millions of dollars of stock in order to protect your own investments.” 

Loeffler fired back, "I've been completely exonerated. Those are lies perpetrated by the left-wing media and Democrats to distract from their radical agenda.” 

8:47 a.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Today's Georgia runoff elections will determine which party controls the US Senate

Analysis from CNN's Ronald Brownstein

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Incumbent GOP Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are facing off against Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in today's runoff elections in Georgia.

Even if Republicans win both races, they will control the Senate majority with only 52 seats. If Democrats win both, they will eke out a 50-50 Senate majority with the tie-breaking vote of incoming Vice President Kamala Harris. A split would produce a 51-49 GOP majority.

That slim range of possibilities underscores a key change in the structure of Senate elections: With each party now consistently dominating elections up and down the ballot across a larger swath of states, it has become much tougher for either to amass a commanding Senate majority.

The fact that neither side will control more than 52 seats after Tuesday means that either party has held at least 55 Senate seats in only three congressional sessions since 2000.

By contrast, in the previous 20-year span, one party reached 55 seats or more in seven congressional sessions. In fact, the meager three majorities of 55 seats or more since 2000 represent the fewest times that any party has accumulated at least 55% of the Senate seats over a 20-year span since the turn of the 20th century, according to official Senate records.

The inability of either side to build a big cushion has contributed to a historic level of volatility in Senate control, with neither party holding the majority for more than eight consecutive years since 1980, a span of turnover unprecedented in American history.