Tom with BTRTN’s prediction for the Georgia Senate runoff tomorrow.
Georgia Senate playoff races are near-elimination in the polls. The environment in which they are held is unprecedented. Therefore, the races are completely unpredictable.
This is not a very good setup for an election forecaster. But we are nothing but brave, so here we go.
Our official BTRTN prediction for the Georgia Senate runoff is that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will win by narrow margins, 51% to 49% (or more), giving Democrats control of the Senate. This choice could take days or even weeks to resolve.
The background here is well known. After the dust was cleared in the November elections, the Republican Party emerged with 50 Senate seats, while the Democratic caucus (including the two independents) had 48. The remaining two races were both in Georgia, where the law requires that a candidate must receive at least 50% of the vote to be declared the winner. Neither candidate reached that mark in either of the November Senate elections, so both will be resolved in a two-person runoff tomorrow, January 5, 2021. Both races feature Republican incumbents David Perdue, who won his first term in 2014, and Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp after Johnny Isakson’s resignation in 2019 due to health considerations.
Joe Biden’s victory left open the possibility that Democrats will gain control of the Senate if the two Democratic Senate candidates oust the Republican rulers in the second round of tomorrow’s elections. In this way, the Democrats would equal the 50 seats of the Republican Party, but with the presidency of Vice President Kamala Harris, they would have control. Chuck Schumer would become the new Senate Majority Leader, able to control the legislation that comes before the House, among many other powers that current leader Mitch McConnell ruthlessly wields.
In November, Perdue beat Ossoff by 1.8 percentage points, 49.7% to 47.9%, while Warnock won the Georgia “jungle primaries” with 33% of the vote, down from 26%. by Loeffler. Given the size of the field in that primary, perhaps the most important figure was that the combined total of Democratic candidates (48.4%) almost equaled that of Republicans (49.3%). Clearly, Georgia is a purple state. In 2017, Ossoff himself was almost enraged when he ran in a special election in Georgia.th Congressional district, losing by just three percentage points. And in 2018, Stacey Abrams almost became the first black woman to become governor, not just in Georgia but in the United States, losing to Kemp by just two points.
But after this series of “close but no cigars” defeats, Democrats broke through in a big way in the biggest election of all: when Joe Biden took Georgia in November.
Runoff polls show a virtual tie in both races. The two Democrats have a very slight lead, well within the margin of error. The most recent polls, from Republican pollster Trafalgar, have Ossoff up at +2 and Warnock at +1.
For those of you wondering why we should bother paying attention to the polls given your supposedly poor performance in the 2020 election, keep these two things in mind.
First, we correctly forecast 97 of 102 races in November, largely based on polls, including 8 of 12 “throwback” races like these two. (The 102 races included 56 states or districts in the presidential race, 35 races for the Senate, and 11 races for governor.) Second, the presidential and Senate polls in Georgia were accurate.
Biden was slightly ahead in the Georgia polls, we predicted Georgia would win, and he did. The Ossoff / Perdue polls were also very close, so close that we predicted that none of the candidates would reach 50% and go into the second round, and that’s what happened. (A third party candidate received about 2% of the vote.) So when current second-round polls say it will be close races, we believe them.
So the stage is set.
Make no mistake, the two Senate elections will be decided by turnout. This election will reflect the pattern of many close races in November, as the dynamics caused by the pandemic are still in place. Democrats will be more likely to vote early, while Republicans will be more likely to vote on January 5. That is the calculation that each side needs to master in order to prevail.
And the evidence to date seems to favor the Democrats.
Regarding early voting, the current results are impressive for Democrats and extremely concerning for Republican officials. There have already been 3 million early voting votes for Georgia’s second round, a staggering number from any point of view (the general election had 4 million early votes). Democrats appear to be doing even better, proportionally, than overall.
Voting in the Democratic urban and suburban strongholds is doing well, while North Georgia, Trump’s heartland, lags behind. The black vote is ahead (31% against 26%). Essentially, it appears that the Democrats are getting an even better advantage now than they were in November.
This puts enormous pressure on the other side of the equation for the Republican Party, which therefore needs to outperform its turnout on Election Day 2020 when the polls open tomorrow. But there are many factors that work against you. For starters, Trump was on the ballot in November and he won’t be tomorrow. He’s the cheering force in the Republican Party today, and he and his staunch supporters don’t seem to care much about the fate of the Senate.
And then, of course, Trump himself has been attacking Georgia’s electoral process, to the point of calling the second round “invalid and illegal.” By subverting the possible Republican loss of the Senate for his own interests, he has sown massive mistrust in the electoral process among his supporters, to the point that a percentage of his supporters may refuse to vote in the second round. Even a modest “no vote” protest could tip the election toward the Democrats.
Beyond that, Trump has tortured Perdue and Loeffler with each of their divisive actions since the election, be it the beating of Governor Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (both Republicans), the veto of the Authorization Act of National Defense (which includes salary increases). for the military), and the initial rejection of the COVID relief bill and its supplemental government spending bill on the size of relief checks. Each required Perdue and Loeffler to perform various degrees of gymnastics that were hardly helpful to their campaign. (They have been silent on the attacks, chose not to be present for the Defense bill override vote, and supported Trump in his latest lawsuit for $ 2,000 checks instead of the $ 600 checks included in the draft bill. law).
Trump once came to Georgia, apparently to support Perdue and Loeffler, but he spent more time on his own complaint than defending Republican senators. His tireless quest to reverse the presidential race has had the devastating effect of denying both Purdue and Loeffler the ability to present the strongest case for their election: that they alone are the only thing standing between the Democrats who control the White House and both houses of Congress. (Basically, they can’t make this claim because it undermines their own position that Trump is the real winner and will prevail in the end for a second term.)
Since Election Day, there has been a debate in every race, and neither was a red-letter day for the Republican candidate. Loeffler was widely criticized for a robotic performance, in contrast to the all-too-human Warnock, while Perdue chose not to appear at all rather than face the simplistic Ossoff again, after being eviscerated by Ossoff in their October debate. Ossoff, instead, sat in an empty chair and punched Purdue in absentia.
None of this means Ossoff and Warnock will win, but in a very close contest, all of these factors together could be enough to tip the balance towards them. Or not. Another fact is that historically Republicans tend to do better in the runoff in Georgia, because turnout tends to decline faster in the Democratic segments. So the race could go very well. But both races are classic games.
The final ingredient in the pre-election witch concoction was yesterday’s release of the already infamous audiotape of a Trump call to Raffensperger on Saturday, a point-blank, mob-threatening, and completely illegal lawsuit that the Georgia Secretary of State He “finds” the 11,780 votes Trump needs to beat Biden to win Georgia. He cited a litany of debunked conspiracy theories as the potential source for these votes.
Trump is due to attend Georgia today in a rally to support Republican senators, but there is little doubt about his actual main theme.
If new polls emerge that definitely point to a different result, we may be back tomorrow with an update.