Just in case Democrats didn’t pay attention to a similar warning from the Washington Post last week, Politico echoes it today. Democrats had the good fortune to tie up both Senate seats from Georgia into a runoff, thanks to a record election turnout and a clear impulse against Donald Trump pushing against David Perdue’s chances of winning his race outright. Don’t expect that to continue, James Arkin reports, especially since both Democratic challengers are starting out “behind the eight-ball”:
To repeat Biden’s feat in a pair of Senate runoffs on Jan. 5, with control of the Senate on the line, the Democratic Party will have to defy a long track record of failure in overtime elections. They’ll need to overcome the entire weight of the Republican Party descending on the state — from organizers and operatives to potentially hundreds of millions of dollars. One of their Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff, would have to make up the nearly 90,000 votes he ran behind the GOP incumbent on Nov. 3.
And Democrats will have to manage all of that without Donald Trump on the ballot to motivate their voters — while Republicans energize their base with warnings that electing Ossoff and Democrat Raphael Warnock would allow liberalism — or even socialism — to run amok in Washington.
“We are the firewall, not just for the U.S. Senate, but the future of our country,” Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who is facing Warnock in the special election, told a crowd of about 100 people packed into a restaurant last week to hear from her and Republican Sen. David Perdue.
The last time a Georgia Senate race went to a runoff, in 2008, Republican Saxby Chambliss crushed Democrat Jim Martin by 15 percentage points — just a month after he only edged Martin by 3 points in the Obama-fueled November election.
It’s not just about historical trends either, though. Arkin hints at that with Ossoff’s underperformance of Biden and Trump’s presidency off the table in the runoff. That underperformance goes even more than just Trump hangover, however. Democrats poured $32.3 million into Ossoff’s campaign this cycle, outraising Perdue by $11 million and outspending him by $13 million. The result? Ossoff fell 86,000 votes short despite Joe Biden winning the state.
Their runoff pitch might make the problem worse:
Ossoff, Warnock and their allies are well aware of their party’s history of losses. They think they can defy it by out-organizing Republicans and reminding their voters that they have the chance to deliver a Democratic Senate.
“This is a very different state than 2008,” Warnock said during a press conference last week.
It’s not that different, however. Republicans got more votes than Democrats in both Senate races this year, even though Warnock ended up with a plurality lead. Democrats didn’t pick up a single House seat in Georgia either. As far as out-organizing Republicans, Ossoff had the resources and the opportunities to do that in the general election while riding Biden’s coattails.
Now, however, Ossoff has to deal with Warnock’s impact on both races. And while Georgia might be shifting a bit politically, it’s not shifting into Fidel Castro apologism, and Warnock’s not helping by dodging questions about his political action in the past:
Eeeks… Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock won't say if he attended the 1995 "lovefest" for murderous dictator Fidel Castro.
— Nathan Brand (@NathanBrandWA) November 15, 2020
TAPPER: Let me ask you about one of those attacks, because Senator Loeffler keeps mentioning on the campaign an incident from 1995 when you were a youth pastor at a New York church which hosted a speech by Fidel Castro. Now, you have said you had nothing to do with that invitation. But just to clarify for our viewers, did you attend the speech? And do you understand why there are so many people who view Castro as a murderous tyrant and not someone to be celebrated?
WARNOCK: I will tell you what I understand. I understand why Kelly Loeffler is trying to change the subject. I was a youth pastor. I had nothing to do with that program. I did not make any decisions regarding the program. I have never met the Cuban dictator. And so I’m not connected to him. I will tell you whose names are on the ballot, Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler. This race is not about anybody else. And so, while she tries to tie me to these personalities that I don’t know, and seeks the endorsement of a fifth century warmonger named Attila the Hun, I will be focused on health care in Georgia.
TAPPER: But do you understand why so many people view any celebration of Fidel Castro as celebrating something ugly and tyrannical? You mentioned it. Yes, I think you just called him a tyrant. He’s — he was a murderous thug. And I think — I get that this is a distraction, but do you understand why people would be appalled by anyone celebrating Fidel Castro?
WARNOCK: Well, absolutely. And I never have. What I’m putting forward in this race is American values.
Note well that Warnock never answers the question about attending Castro’s speech at the Abyssinian Baptist Church in 1995, where he served as a preacher. His multiple sermons on socialism and Marxism have now begun to emerge too, which makes Warnock look less like an “American values” candidate and more like a handy straw man for Chuck Schumer and hard-Left progressives. The GOP has been waiting for Warnock as a runoff candidate, and they will try very hard to to hang Warnock around Ossoff’s neck, too. And Ossoff is clearly not the kind of skilled campaigner that can break this runoff into two separate questions.
Update: He’s baaaaa-aaaaaaaack. And so apparently is a united GOP effort:
Senate Republicans have tapped Karl Rove to oversee their fundraising program for the Georgia runoff elections, according to a person familiar with the effort.
The former George W. Bush adviser will serve as national finance chair for the Georgia Battleground Fund, a joint fundraising account formed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee that will benefit Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. The Jan. 5 runoffs in Georgia will determine which party controls the Senate next year. …
An array of high-profile Republicans are joining Rove in the fundraising effort. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Dan Quayle and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley will serve as honorary co-chairs. Haley is also seen as a likely 2024 presidential contender.
Nick Ayers, a veteran of Georgia politics who formerly served as Pence’s chief of staff, and longtime Republican fundraisers Jeff Miller and Jack Oliver will be national co-chairs. The list of national co-chairs also includes former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Georgia GOP chair Alec Poitevint.
That’s a pretty good vanguard of Republican unity in the face of a Biden administration. We’ll see how long it lasts, but for now it’s precisely the approach necessary to keep focus on salvaging the Senate.