The Slatest

Warnock Leads; Ossoff and Perdue Too Close to Call in Georgia Runoffs

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both in suits and face masks, bump elbows.
Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock bump elbows at a rally in Atlanta on Monday. Jim Watson/Getty Images

Democrats needed to sweep both of Tuesday’s Senate runoffs in Georgia, the final elections of the 2020 cycle, in order to take control of the Senate upon Joe Biden’s inauguration. By late Tuesday night, with roughly 97 percent of the vote counted, Democrat Raphael Warnock was leading incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler by about 35,000 votes in the special election runoff while Republican David Perdue and Jon Ossoff were in an essential tie.

With most of the remaining votes to be counted centralized in the Democratic-dominated Atlanta metropolitan area, Democrats found themselves in a strong position to take both races—and relegate Sen. Mitch McConnell back to his old job as Senate minority leader.*

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Democrats posted overwhelming margins among Black voters in and around Atlanta and held much of the gains they had made among anti-Trump white suburbanites. Republican turnout in many smaller, pro-Trump counties, meanwhile, dipped further from November levels than turnout did in Democratic strongholds. Elections are won and lost for many, many reasons that will be worth exploring in the coming days once the results are final. But it does not appear that the president keeping himself front-and-center in the news by whining, refusing to concede, and claiming that election results couldn’t be trusted netted out favorably for the Georgia Republican position.

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While none of the major networks or the Associated Press had made calls as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, other decision desks, like Decision Desk HQ and the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman, had called the special election runoff for Warnock. Wasserman had also called the other Senate race for Ossoff. The New York Times’ forecasting “needle,” meanwhile, pointed to 97-percent win probabilities for each Democrat, with Warnock projected ultimately to win by a 1.9 percentage point margin and Ossoff by 1.1.

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If those forecasts hold, and Democrats do ultimately claim both seats, Perdue would never have a reason to return to Washington. His regular term expired with the beginning of the new Congress on Jan. 3, and he’s existed the last couple of days in a strange, and surely trying, limbo state as a nonseated incumbent. But Loeffler, as an appointee to a Senate seat, would serve as a senator right up until her successor was sworn in. Loeffler, in fact, is scheduled to be in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. As part of her runoff campaign’s strategy of unwavering fealty to Donald Trump and acquiescence to any of his demands, she pledged to object to Georgia’s slate of electors in Congress’ tally of the Electoral College. Ah, well.

Correction, Jan. 6, 2021: This post originally misspelled Mitch McConnell’s last name.

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