With Biden taking the lead this morning in both Pennsylvania and Georgia (and retaining it in Arizona and Nevada), two things are now all but certain:
1. Joe Biden will be the 46th President of the
United States*, winning somewhere between 270 and 306 votes, and
*-first call made by DDHQ
pursuant to Biden PA win, more sure to come in short order. Full accounting here.
2. Control of the United States Senate will not be settled
until January 5th when Georgia voters will render their verdict in
both Senate races.
There will be lots of time for takes on what happened in the
Presidential race and how it ended up so close, but the bottom line is that
Donald Trump held his own in some interesting and unexpected ways, which was
more than enough for his GOP ticket-mates, who ran ahead of him by an average
of 2.6 points across the map. In some cases he was able to pull folks over the
line; in others his share was enough to put them in range. But at the end of
the day, the additional 3-4 points by which Trump was able to over-perform his
polling blunted any talk of a Blue Wave and instead led to a conspicuously
But let’s talk a little about the Georgia Senate races. I spent the waning days of a very different election cycle, one that happened to put Joe Biden in the general vicinity of 1600 Pennsylvania, holed up in an extended stay hotel in Alpharetta, trying to stanch the bleeding for Senate Republicans and deny President-elect Obama a supermajority in the upper chamber. This was a very different Georgia, to put it mildly, but it both demonstrated the latent shift in a purpling state, and underscored the challenge Democrats often face in reprising Presidential turnout in such run-offs. The four week sprint was punctuated by dueling rallies featuring Sarah Palin on the one side and Ludacris, T.I., and Young Jeezy on the other. (You can’t make this stuff up.) In the end, without President Obama on the ballot, Republicans were able to retain their 41st seat, albeit temporarily, and the margin wasn’t particularly close at nearly 15 points.
While Republicans will begin as the favorites in these
races, there is reason to think that this will not be 2008 redux, not least
because 12 years later Joe Biden is poised to win the Peach State outright.
This will be a real dogfight, with the attendant resources surging in from
across the country. Here’s a peek at what we’re in for.
How Things Stack Up
By The Numbers
Current partisan breakdown:
Perdue-Ossoff: 49.8-47.8; Special, Total R-D: 49-48.4
GOP: Perdue very nearly avoided the
run-off altogether, winning a plurality of the vote and pacing his opponent by
two points even as Trump is poised to fall narrowly to Biden. In just about any
other state in the country, he would have been re-elected on Tuesday. And in
the all-party special election, Republicans similarly got the lion’s share of
the vote—in addition to the 46% for the leading candidates in Loeffler and Collins,
minor GOPers picked up an addition three points. All of which is to say
Republicans ran ahead of the President by a point or two, which they would have
to repeat here in the run-off.
Dems: Biden will almost certainly
win the state with a narrow plurality as the metro Atlanta counties finish
reporting their results. Democrats can win in Georgia, which would have been an
astonishing statement just a few years ago, and remains fairly stunning in
light of recent disappointments. Now the question is whether they can reprise
the anti-Trump coalition in service of a pro-Biden Senate majority.
GOP: Having David Perdue on the
ticket provides a major boost to appointed Senator Kelly Loeffler, who is
coming off a long and messy (jungle) primary battle with Rep. Doug Collins.
Winning was always going to require unity, and the rapid mending of intramural
fences, and running what will essentially be a joint campaign with the popular
senior Senator will surely help that. On a day where ticket-splitting is even
less likely than usual, a strong running-mate will be critical.
Dems: Jon Ossoff and Raphael
Warnock make for an odd buddy-comedy of a ticket, but the combination is
formidable on paper—Ossoff is precisely the kind of candidate that The
Resistance has embraced and that has resonated in the sort of inner ring metro
suburbs that just turned Georgia blue. Warnock, who gained acclaim as a
successor to Martin Luther King, Jr. as head pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church,
is a prominent leader in the African-American community of Atlanta that will
provide the backbone of any Democratic hopes here.
GOP: Republican donors and outside
groups will sure to rally around Georgia, and the online platform WINRED is
mounting a major effort to drive cash to these races. Senator Loeffler is a
self-funder in her own right, and would be expected to dip into her own
considerable coffers as much as needed.
Dems: While a flood of money is
absolutely certain to flow into this contest, the “Green Wave” of 2020 mostly
ended up with dashed hopes and confusion. Democrats raised unprecedented sums
across the map and ended up with very little to show for it, except some costly
futility: in Kentucky and South Carolina alone, Democratic donors spent $200
million on races that were decided by a combined 30 points. They sunk another
$160 million into 5 other losing races, while affiliated outside groups dropped
another $200 million on negative ads alone. Despite outraising GOP incumbents
by orders of magnitude across the map, the only pickups were in Biden states
they were heavily favored in. Once again, the money will be there, but its
efficacy remains an open question.
This is the variable that is almost
certain to determine the outcome, and you can argue it either way.
GOP: House and Senate Republicans
just had a great night because they were able to build on Donald Trump’s
spread-covering performance to win their races across the country. But while
they ran ahead of the President, they still benefited from voters that turned
out *for him.* Will these dejected Trump voters stay home when he’s not
on the ballot, or will the President’s charges of a “stolen” election be a
motivating factor? Expect Republicans to lean into this sense of grievance
among the MAGA crowd, while appealing to the Trump-skeptical suburbs by framing
the contest as a referendum on control of all of the levers of power—reminding
voters that they are not just voting for their Senator, but for Chuck Schumer
and Nancy Pelosi to run Washington while Joe Biden effectively serves as an
auto-pen for progressive priorities (whether or not this is the practical
Dems: For Democrats the task is
simple—convince Biden voters that it’s all for naught if they don’t come back
out and deliver him a Democrat Senate. One question is whether the white-hot
rage of anti-Trump voters in the Atlanta suburbs will be tempered by this
victory, and/or whether an otherwise disappointing night for Democrats leaves
The Resistance feeling deflated. Another is to what degree African-American
voters, who were never as mobilized against Trump to begin with, and had a
unique affinity for Joe Biden, feel compelled to turn out in Presidential
numbers. As mentioned, the odd couple dynamic of Ossoff and Warnock could be
well-suited to address both of these concerns, but given the incredibly slim
margin, they can’t afford to lose votes on either end.
All in all, I would rather be Republicans, but this will be
a battle royale, and nothing should be taken for granted. Control of the Senate
majority is very much in play, even if a 50-50 chamber would be very tenuous
for the Biden agenda.