Today voters will get to decide who the two senators from Georgia will be. If Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win, that will result in a 50-50 senate tie that will enable Kamala Harris to break the tie in Democrats favor. Both parties have put in a lot of effort into this race. Democrats eked out a small 12,000 vote victory for Joe Biden by mounting a vigorous effort to register voters and turn them out. The question is whether they can maintain that level of enthusiasm in non-presidential races where turnout typically drops off dramatically.
Bernard Fraga, a professor of political science at Emory and the author of “The Turnout Gap,” told me that turnout tends to drop by forty per cent or more for runoff elections. In Georgia, he explained, the drop-off is typically more severe among Democrats. But he didn’t expect this runoff to be typical. We might see a drop-off as small as fifteen per cent, he suggested. “But will that historically low drop-off be disproportionately Republican or Democratic?” he asked. “That’s what these groups on the ground are trying to decide.”
Democrats are hoping that having one black candidate and one white candidate supporting each other could result in some cross-over benefits.
Warnock, the senior pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church—a position once held by Martin Luther King, Jr.—has not run for office before. Ossoff, the C.E.O. of a company that produces investigative documentaries, ran for the U.S. House of Representatives three years ago, losing but raising a lot of money and getting a lot of press in the process. “Their audiences will bleed over to one another,” [Nsé Ufot, the C.E.O. of the New Georgia Project] said. “White suburban moms of Atlanta, who ride for Jon Ossoff, will get introduced to Warnock, this Black pastor from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. And Warnock lends credibility to Ossoff in the Black pockets around the state that he couldn’t buy.
Polling has been sparse but the indications are that it will be another close election. As a result, I am not hopeful that the Democrats will win. In order to counter the systemic barriers against them, especially in the form of obstacles placed on people of color and those living in poorer ares, they usually need at least a five-point margin going into voting day in order to have an even chance of winning and they do not seem to have that. Also the new emphasis on mail-in and early voting makes predictions based on historical trends doubtful.
But on the other hand, there is the juggernaut that is Stacey Abrams, who has been indefatigable in turning out the votes in her home state. Her efforts played a huge role in Biden’s win and she is working hard again for these races.
One thing in the Democrats’ favor in that Trump is not on the ballot. My belief is that it was his cult-like following showing up to vote for him that led to Republicans doing better than expected in down ballot races on November 3rd. Will the cult still turn out in droves if they do not get the pleasure of voting for Dear Leader? He has been campaigning for the two Republicans but at the same time has been undermining the legitimacy of the election and attacking the Republican governor and secretary of state and some of the people pushing Trump’s claim that the presidential election was stolen from him are calling on Republicans to boycott the election.
It is pretty wild.