Monday, January 04, 2021

Georgia U.S. Senate Runoffs

I have been avoiding making these posts both because final predictions are a bit tricky and because the entire scenario of the campaign in Georgia over the past two months has been a bit sad.

Of course as the saying goes, "Georgia is on the mind" of political observers from coast to coast ahead of tomorrow's two runoffs. If Democrats win both they will control the U.S. Senate. If Republicans keep one of the two, they will retain the U.S. Senate. It is frankly pretty hard to see a split decision here.

The Final Days of the Trump Administration have been at times both predictable and embarrassing. These seats, in once conservative Georgia, which now looks more purple, should have been fairly easy wins for Republicans in  January, but Trump has created so much chaos upon the Republican Party, that that is far from certain.

Had the strategy been to remind voters that if Republicans lose the Senate, Democrats would control the White House and both branches of government and that checks and balances are needed. A one party control, moving the country far to the left needed to be prevented. That would have been a winning message, especially considering how down ballot Republicans from coast to coast outperformed Trump in November and did far better than expected. The country, and I assume Georgia, has a lot of qualms about a one party Democrat control over the elected government.

However, Trump has of course refused to play along with this or to acknowledge reality. He has claimed he has been cheated and convinced many followers that he will still somehow be President after January 20th, and that the official results showing that he lost Georgia in November were "rigged" and that he easily won the state. The count was corrupt, the machines were corrupt, the once very Trumpian Governor, Lt. Governor, and Secretary of State, are all corrupt, etc. etc. This sends a message to a lot of people who might want to vote Republican that it is not worth it.

Frankly, all four candidates deserve to lose tomorrow.

Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (appointed by the now MAGA-despised Governor Brian Kemp) deserve to lose because they have taken part in a cynical fraud attempt to falsely claim Donald Trump was cheated and have otherwise shown a despicable amount of fealty to him.

There was a crazy rally tonight and while Perdue is quarantining because of Covid exposure, Loeffler was there of course in a red hat. Trump had her come to the podium and speak briefly, as the crowd implored her to "Fight for Trump." Had Trump put a dog collar around her neck and asked her to remain in a kneeled position at his feet for the remainder of the speech, is there any doubt she would have done it? Fifty Shades of a Fading Red State.

Despite my desire for checks and balances, parts of me want to root for the Democrats in these races, but that it tough too.

Loeffler's opponent, the Reverend Raphael Warnock, comes across as a nice, charismatic guy, but he has in recent years expressed positions that would be considered outside of the Americna mainstream. Also, he has gone through a pretty ugly divorce, just this year, in which his wife alleges he was abusive physically. The details are kind of murky, but other political candidates in more "normal times" would be asked a lot more questions about the allegations. Warnock has basically been able to shrug it off and pivot.

Perdue's opponent, Jon Ossoff, would be the first United States Senator to have been born in the 1980s, 1987 in his case. Obviously, he is a very ambitious young man, and pretty good at delivering soundbites. There is nothing really wrong with that, but Ossoff has also exhibited a disturbing Trumpian trait of attacking opponents with distortions and wild exaggerations. This sort of politics was around before Donald Trump (I feel done far more often by Democrats), but Trump took it to a new level. We need leaders who will change the way that sort of thing is done and not try to imitate it.

Most specifically, I am referring to the way that Ossoff claims that his opponent David Perdue is a "crook." There are indeed legitimate issues to raise about Perdue's financial ethics, but "crook" is a pretty specific label, at least before Trump assigned it permanently to his description of Hillary Clinton.

Even worse in my mind is the way that Ossoff unblinkingly and repeatedly claims that Loeffler (whom is not even his opponent) is "campaigning with a Klansman." No, she has not. Her and her campaign has been horrible, but she has not been "campaigning with a Klansman." 

Attack her for campaigning with new Congresswoman Marjorie Green (Q-Anon) or Trump himself but the Klan thing should be fear beneath Ossoff. This relates to candidate Loeffler having taken a photo with a former Klansman. I will put aside any consideration as to whether the former Klansman has in away way redeemed his life as many others have done. Perhaps, he is still a horrible person, but she merely took a photo with him. That is not "campaigning with." She has denounced all people's associations with the Klan, past or present, and there is no way that politicians are supposed to know whom everybody is that comes up to them for a photo or what their background is.
So, what will happen tomorrow? Republicans will lead the early vote count, then the ballots from Democrat areas will come in and a whole bunch of people from Trump on down will be crying "fraud."
Clearly, Georgia is a competitive state. To the dismay and sore-loserness of defeated candidates, it went very narrowly for a Republican Governor in 2018 and went narrowly for Joe Biden this November. What was once a solid South Democrat state started to turn red as Yankee Republicans began moving in, and when the state appeared solidly Republican, a lot of Yankee Democrats are now moving in, changing the politics once again. This will be a battleground state for some time, at as the divide remains between rural populists/conservatives and those in the suburbs who had been voting Republican, at least until recently.

My final November predictions had the two year seat currently held as Loeffler as Tossup (Loeffler)/Tossup (R). I was correct that she would advance to January in her multi-candidate battle and expected her to face Warnock.

At the last day, I changed the Perdue regular seat to Tossup (D). I figured there was at least an outside chance that Ossoff could win outright. What happened though is that Perdue missed avoiding a runoff only narrowly.

Since these races went into runoffs two months after I last predicted, it is only fair to have another shot at the prediction game. I truly expected, in November to be classifying both of these races as Leans Republican when 2021 rolled around.

However, while runoff elections might definitely be harder to predict when they are close, I cannot overlook just how much of a mess the Republican Party currently is in, especially in Georgia. Donald Trump will be departing the scene soon, but will he truly be gone?

For now, he hovers over these twin runoffs.

My prediction for both: Tossup (D)


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