The numbers in Georgia point towards two tossup races
Andrew Trunsky, DCNF
Georgia’s Senate runoffs have drawn record spending, record turnout and national attention, setting the stage for two extremely close races on Jan. 5.
Republican Sen. David Perdue faces Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger, after both finished just under the 50% needed to avoid a runoff in November, while Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock after they earned the most support in a jungle primary featuring over 20 candidates.
The two races will determine whether Republicans can hold their slim Senate majority, likely preventing President-elect Joe Biden from passing much of his proposed agenda once he takes office, or whether Democrats can achieve a 50-50 Senate split, giving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote and Biden’s party full control of Congress as a result.
Georgia’s runoffs have already seen record turnout since early voting began Dec. 14. Nearly 1.7 million votes have already been cast, according to the U.S. Elections Project, amounting to nearly 20% of the state’s registered voters. Approximately 76,000 Georgians who did not vote in November had registered to vote in January’s election before the state’s Dec. 7 deadline.
Additionally, while Democrats have been more inclined to vote early or by-mail in almost every election this year, their current share of the early vote is slightly higher than it was in November’s election due to record early turnout among the state’s black voters, according to The Upshot’s Nate Cohn.
Though the margin is not far off where it was in November, it could make a difference in a state where Biden won by just 0.24% — the closest margin in the country.
Ad spending in both races has also shattered existing records. Over $450 million has been spent on television ads alone since Nov. 3, putting the total spending between both races on pace to hit nearly $600 million by Jan. 5.
Both races have also become almost completely nationalized. Democrats have campaigned on the promise that a Democratic Senate — and a unified government — will allow the country to pass sweeping legislation regarding voting rights, clean energy, infrastructure and more, while Republicans have warned that Democratic control of government will put the United States on a path towards socialism.
Numerous national political figures have also flocked to Georgia to campaign alongside their respective party’s candidates, including Biden, Harris, President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former President Barack Obama.
While polls have reflected two neck-and-neck races, with some giving the edge to Republicans and some giving the edge to Democrats, forecasters have warned that with races this close in a hotly contested battleground state that turnout is all that matters come runoff day.