Georgia Senate Race: What to Know and Why It's Important

Both Biden and Trump have weighed in on the importance of the runoff elections, which will determine whether the GOP maintains its Senate hold.


Image via Getty/Paras Griffin


Georgia is on the cusp of potential history this week, as two Senate runoffs in the state are poised for ramifications that will be felt around the country regardless of their respective outcomes.

The runoffs, which will ultimately determine whether Republicans hold on to their years-long Senate control or lose it to Democrats, have been the source of national attention for weeks now. Even artists have gotten involved with encouraging voter turnout and raising money, with Mulatto recently performing at a polling site and the team behind the holiday classic Elf putting together a Democrats-benefiting reunion special.

With the runoffs set to go down this Tuesday, we've put together a guide to explain what's at stake and how we got here.

In short, the margins of victory in November were too small. State law demands that such a victory only be made final if someone wins by more than 50 percent of the vote. While Republican David Perdue came in 88,000 votes above Democrat Jon Ossoff in November, the final percentage—49.7, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionmeant a runoff was necessary.

The other runoff, which sees Republican Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock, was also triggered thanks to percentage requirements following a special election that included 19 other hopefuls.

As the Associated Press points out, the state changed its election laws back in 2014 to include a nine-week waiting period after general elections and before any runoffs. Originally, the gap had been just four weeks. Thus, here we are in a new year, facing a pivotal election with roots in 2020.

Republicans, expectedly, are again positioning themselves as MAGA-aligned protectors of the state against the progressive and objectively better policies of their rivals.

This has included the politicization of pandemic stimulus payments, with Perdue and Loeffler both making a point to criticize Democrats in a recent joint statement.

Today, we will deliver nearly $1 trillion in additional aid on top of the $3 trillion already disbursed.

Chuck Schumer & Nancy Pelosi made this harder than it needed to be, purposely holding up relief that could have been delivered months ago.

Statement w/ @SenatorLoeffler:

— David Perdue (@sendavidperdue) December 21, 2020

Perdue, whose "America First" messaging is not in line with his own past of outsourcing, was first elected to the Senate back in 2014 using a Trump-esque "businessman" approach due to his former statuses as senior VP of Reebok and CEO of Dollar General.

Unsurprisingly, Loeffler—and state Republicans at large—have built an election strategy that's centered on using MAGA scare words like "socialism" to drive home that aforementioned protector branding.  

Meanwhile, the Democrats are aiming to capitalize on Joe Biden's victory by calling for a statewide rejection of the MAGA ideology while reminding voters which people actually benefit from Trumpism.

A recent example of this comes from Ossoff, who leads a documentary production company. In late December, Ossoff criticized Loeffler's decision to snap a selfie with a white supremacist, telling Fox News that she's been "campaigning with a Klansman."

View this video on YouTube

Democrats, including Ossoff and Warnock, have also made clear that the fate of a boosted pandemic stimulus for struggling Americans rests in the hands of the GOP due to the fact that they currently still have control of the Senate. Put another way, Democrats are hoping voters will come to see that actions speak louder than words when it comes to offering much-needed help in a time of great need.

If Democrats bag both seats in the Jan. 5 runoffs, this will put the Senate in a 50-50 split. Thanks to the tie-breaking power of incoming VP Kamala Harris, however, this would effectively give Democrats the upper hand. This outcome, of course, would bode well for the aspirations of the Biden administration and could mark a turning point for the state of Georgia with a long-reaching impact on future elections.

For Republicans, only one win on Jan. 5 would be needed to hold control, albeit narrowly.

Democrats are hoping that the record-setting early voter turnout is a sign that victory is on the horizon.

"We will make history again on January 5th," Warnock, a celebrated pastor whose career in political action includes advocating for Medicaid expansion, vowed at the end of 2020.

As of Dec. 30, per CNN, more than 2.5 million votes (both early in-person votes and absentee-by-mail ballots) had already been cast in the runoff elections. 

As for when we can expect to learn whether Democrats or Republicans have emerged victorious, the 2020 presidential election saga—thanks to everything from the pandemic to baseless claims of voter fraud—provides a fair blueprint of how this may go down.

The general consensus is that, like the presidential election, it may very well take several days for the official results to be announced.

While some, including Axios' Mike Allen, have argued that various Republicans believe Trump is intentionally "sabotaging" the runoffs to send a message to the GOP, the failed steak salesman did announce in December that he will be holding a "big rally" for Perdue and Loeffler on the eve of the runoffs. However, in the same tweet, he also mocked state Republicans over the outcome of the 2020 presidential election:

As badly as we were treated in Georgia by the “Republican” Governor and “Republican” Secretary of State, we must have a massive victory for two great people, @KLoeffler & @sendavidperdue, on January 5th. I will be having a big Rally for them on Monday night, January 4th. WIN!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 20, 2020

Biden is set to campaign in the Atlanta area alongside Ossoff and Warnock on Monday, following Harris' visit to the state over the weekend. In a message shared on Dec. 31, Biden urged his supporters to do everything in their power to ensure the victories of Ossoff and Warnock. The outcomes of these runoffs, he added, "will not only determine the fate of the Senate but the future of our country."

We have less than one week to do everything in our power to help Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win their Senate runoff elections in Georgia. These races will not only determine the fate of the Senate but the future of our country. Chip in today:

— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 31, 2020

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