For now, it appears that Joe Biden will become the forty-sixth president — but potentially with a historically hostile Congress for a first-termer. At best, Democrats’ hold on the House has slipped, thanks to unexpected losses in a cycle where their party reclaimed the White House. At worst, it still might end up in Republican hands, although that would require the GOP to pull an inside straight on all of the outstanding House races left.
Two more might be ready to flip soon:
NEW: Republicans in Orange County have increased their leads in races for US House. Two seats GOP is looking to flip. #CA39
(R) Young Kim: 101,583 52.42%
(D) Gil Cisneros: 92,212 47.58%#CA48
(R) Michelle Steel 179,452 50.67%
(D) Harley Rouda 174,678 49.33%@FOXLA
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 6, 2020
At the moment, Democrats need ten more seats to keep the majority, while Republicans need 23 — practically all of the outstanding races. That won’t be likely, of course, but it’s going to be close. That will make it impossible for progressives to advance anything controversial over the next two years, even if Nancy Pelosi somehow hangs onto a slender majority.
What about the Senate? So far, the net loss for Mitch McConnell is one seat, but the two others that provide his majority will face a runoff election in Georgia on January 5th. Given the stakes involved, we can expect massive amounts of money and attention to deluge Georgia. The fact that Georgia has been sliding away from the GOP for the past few years, and is on the precipice of voting for the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992, might have Democrats hoping for a silver lining to the dark clouds this election has created for them.
Think again, writes Washington Post analyst Amber Phillips:
Here’s why Democrats feel like they have a shot to win these races: Georgia is rapidly changing. Democrats harnessed those demographic changes to perform remarkably well in the suburbs and outer suburbs. They had record turnout in counties outside Atlanta, and they managed to get a lot of people to successfully vote by mail.
“There is a demographic change happening in Georgia that is only accelerating every year,” said a Democratic strategist who has worked on Senate races in Georgia. “The state is diversifying and urbanizing at an incredible clip.”
Democrats also think that Perdue and Loeffler, both of whom have tied themselves extremely closely to the president, are weaker without him. If Perdue’s votes track almost exactly to Trump’s, then where will he be without Trump on the ballot? (Republicans counter that they think it was Democrat Joe Biden who pulled Perdue to his record votes.) …
But if you look at the data from November’s election, you’d rather be the Republicans than Democrats in these next round of races.
Democrats have already been pouring money into Georgia, thanks to their read on the “changing demographics” of the state. Jon Ossoff outraised David Perdue by $11 million and outspent him by $13 million in this cycle, but Perdue has about $1.7 million more on hand at the ned of the race. Perdue actually outperformed Trump by a few hundred votes (at least so far in the count), while Jon Ossoff underperformed Joe Biden by about 150,000 votes while losing to Perdue by 97,000 and some change. That seems to credit the GOP’s theory of this race, and without Trump as an issue any longer, Democrats will have a much tougher time dealing with the Democrats’ professed progressive agenda with Georgia’s voters.
What about Kelly Loeffler’s chances? In her special election to retain the seat for a full term, Loeffler outraised and outspent Raphael Warnock while coming up short against him, but Doug Collins soaked up a lot of resources in that race too. The two combined for a vote total of 2.24 million votes, while Warnock and the next three Democrats combined fell short of that mark.
And let’s not forget that while Biden appears to have won Georgia, he also didn’t hit the 50% mark. Perdue got almost a half-percent closer to that mark in the Senate vote, in fact.
Money may not be a good solution for Democrats, either. While Democrats spent vast sums of money in Georgia and other races, a lot of it came from outside the states where the races took place. There have already been suggestions that the flood of money from New York and California might be turning off voters, which makes the next few weeks rather fraught for Ossoff and Warnock. The fundraising and spending advantage didn’t do Ossoff any good, clearly.
That may come down to how that money got spent. The DNC and the Biden campaign eschewed the normal retail politics for almost this entire cycle, only pushing people out to do door-knocking in the final weeks of the campaign. The RNC has built and funded their ground game for years and fully deployed it in this cycle, including in Georgia. They have a big head start in terms of collaboration on the ground, voter selection, and messaging. They will likely raise enough money to get parity on the airwaves this time around, and they will pound the message home that a Biden presidency and a Democratic Senate will mean radical changes — court-packing, Green New Deal, and so on.
It’s going to be a long two months, and anything can happen in a special election. But as Phillips says, you’d rather be a Republican in Georgia than a Democrat in these circumstances.
Addendum: Just as an aside: if people wonder how Trump could lose the presidential election while Republicans held serve or made gains down-ballot, the RNC’s superior ground game is probably the answer. And that will matter again in these run-off elections.
Update: I have corrected Warnock’s first name to “Raphael.”