Senate on the line: Are we heading for two runoffs in Georgia?

Senate on the line: Are we heading for two runoffs in Georgia?

Most of the focus on Georgia’s vote count falls on the presidential race, and for good reason. Donald Trump has an 18,000-vote lead that has consistently narrowed since Election Night as ballots from the Atlanta area get counted. NBC’s Today and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that only 5,000 or so are left to tally in Fulton County, although “tens of thousands” are still outstanding elsewhere in the state:

Fulton County elections chief Rick Barron said officials will release more vote totals around 11 a.m. Thursday.

“We’ve scanned 137,134 ballots, we have adjudicated 132,272,” Barron said Thursday morning. “I told the vote review panel an hour ago to come back at 10 a.m. because I didn’t figure it was enough to have them wait around until we had a more significant total to give them.”

“We are going to finish up this morning,” he said.

Fulton County elections officials Thursday morning were close to completing the arduous task of processing and counting the last of approximately 140,000 absentee-by-mail ballots.

The AJC reports that Biden’s winning 80% of the Fulton County ballots, which won’t be enough to overcome Trump’s lead in the presidential race, at least as it stands this morning. However, the other county accounting for many of these absentee ballots is Chatham, home of Savannah, another Democratic stronghold where Biden’s running 58/41 over Trump, and where absentee ballots might break even more strongly.

That has the potential to force two runoff elections for Georgia’s Senate seats. One runoff for Kelly Loeffler’s seat was already a given, thanks to an open special election in which no one was expected to get to 50% anyway. However, David Perdue was widely expected to win a majority and avoid the necessity of a run-off. Perdue has outpolled Trump in the election but is presently hovering dangerously near the edge of the 50% mark, leading 50.03% over Jon Ossoff’s 47.66% of the vote.

There might end up being two seats up for grabs on January 5th, and with it control of the Senate:

U.S. Sen. David Perdue also appeared at risk of being pulled into a runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff, hovering near the 50-percent threshold as ballots from metro Atlanta and Chatham County were tallied through the night.

Georgia’s other U.S. Senate seat is already headed toward a Jan. 5 showdown, with incumbent Kelly Loeffler facing Democrat Raphael Warnock in the matchup. …

And more could hinge on the Jan. 5 runoffs, required if no candidate gets a majority of the vote. The dual contests could potentially determine control of the U.S. Senate if Biden wins the White House.

Mitch McConnell went into Tuesday night with a 53-seat majority, which included both Georgia seats. He lost two — Cory Gardner and Martha McSally (provisionally) — and picked up one in Alabama, where Doug Jones got clobbered by Tommy Tuberville. Susan Collins’ surprise win in Maine left many reassured that the GOP would control the Senate with a 52-seat majority no matter how the presidential race shook out.

Now, however, it looks like McConnell may be back down to 50 if Republicans can’t convert in a special election two months from today. That essentially gives Democrats full control of Washington, as Kamala Harris could cast tiebreaking votes to put Chuck Schumer in charge of the floor and pass whatever rules and legislation Democrats want. Either McConnell would need to get Joe Manchin to flip — which seems pretty unlikely — or get ready to fight for converts on every vote that takes place. And thanks to the 2013 nuclear option and the 2017 expansion of it, Biden could appoint nearly anyone he wants to any position he wants in that scenario.

Republicans have already issued legal challenges to the absentee-counting process, but they’d better hope that Perdue doesn’t lose much more than a fifteen hundred votes in the gap over the next few hours. That’s how close he is to having both seats go up for grabs on January 5th — and control of the Senate. If that happens, Georgia had better brace itself for a political war on the airwaves and in the streets for the next two months.

Addendum: Republicans have not lost a statewide runoff in Georgia before now. Based on the vote this time around, they’d better not count on that record standing for long without a lot of help.

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