WaPo: No *really*, Dems, don't get your hopes up in Georgia

Shouldn’t they? After all, it’s not the Democratic Party that’s at war with the state of Georgia’s electoral system, nor Democrats calling for boycotts of the two runoff elections for control of the US Senate. Republicans have poured money and resources into the state at a far greater clip than Democrats, but a significant part of those resources may have to go into convincing voters that communists aren’t rigging the election as we speak.

That aside, analysts from the Washington Post again pour some cold water on Democratic hopes in the runoff elections.  Two weeks ago, Amber Phillips punctured the idea that David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler would be weaker without Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Today, Lenny Bronner takes the same point from the other direction. The problem isn’t that Perdue and Loeffler are weaker than Trump, Bronner points out, but that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are weaker than Joe Biden.

It matters especially where they are weaker:

Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes, a very slim margin in a state where nearly 5 million were cast but enough to become the first Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1992. But now attention turns to the state’s runoffs. In those races, Biden received 100,000 more votes than Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate in the regular Senate election. Biden also outperformed the eight Democratic candidates in the special Senate election by about the same amount.

It is not uncommon for down-ballot candidates to receive fewer votes than the presidential candidates. But of course in the runoffs, in which Republican Sen. David Perdue will face Ossoff and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler will face the Rev. Raphael Warnock, there’s no presidential race. If Democrats want to win the Senate majority, they might need some of those who skipped the Senate lines on their ballots or voted for the Republican. And we can use precinct-level data to identify where this “undervoting” happened and give us an idea about who those people might be.

And how they are weaker:

In the Atlanta area, it is possible that this kind of voter voted for Biden for president and David Perdue (or Libertarian candidate Shane Hazel, who received nearly 115,000 votes). An indication is that in that part of the state only 18,000 people voted for president but not for Senate, but Ossoff trailed Biden by more than 70,000 votes. So this indicates that at least 42,000 people voted for Biden and a Senate candidate who was not Ossoff.

Outside of Atlanta, the undervote number is 28,000 — just shy of the 30,000 who voted for Biden and not Ossoff. So it seems more likely here that people who voted for Biden skipped the Senate race overall.

To some extent, this kind of analysis can get a bit precious. Without going out and asking people — in other words, polling them — it’s tough to reliably translate data into intentions and therefore trends. This does seem to indicate a fairly significant Biden/not-Ossoff impulse in and around Atlanta, but did that actually show up in the election totals? Perdue only scored less than a thousand votes more than Donald Trump did, which makes the idea curious that 42,000 Atlanta-area voters split their ticket Biden/Shane Hazel, the Libertarian who only got 115,000 votes statewide.

On the other hand, Perdue doesn’t necessarily need the Hazel votes. He just needs to make sure Ossoff doesn’t get them. Bronner assumes that the ticket-splitting that took place in the Atlanta on Biden ballots means Ossoff’s weaker, which is probably true. But it’s just as easy to assume that those same voters will tip over to Ossoff in a binary choice ballot.

That, however, is if they bother to show up at all. Bronner’s second assumption that both the Biden/not-Ossoff and the Biden/no-Senate-choice voters are not likely to make an appearance in the runoff, and that they were only motivated by the opportunity to vote against Donald Trump. Now that Trump lost the election, Bronner assumes they won’t have much motivation to turn out again. That is a very good assumption, even beyond the GOP’s advantages in resources and ground game. Furthermore, there’s an obvious motivation for Republicans to turn out — to protect the GOP’s control of the Senate, and with it the ability to limit Joe Biden’s impact.

Is it trite to talk about turnout? Not really, since that’s the key in any special election — and why it’s tough to poll and predict them. Special elections favor the party with the most engaged voters, usually, and historically in Georgia that means Republicans. That’s even more likely to be the case here, as Bronner points out, plus Republicans got a head start on resources and defining their opposition. So far the polling shows both races to be dead heats, with competing 1-point spreads in the Loeffler/Warnock race and one tie and Perdue up four in the other runoff. We may not get much more movement from polling than that, unless GOP attacks on Warnock resonate outside of Atlanta in the way Republicans hope. Public opinion will likely stay split; it’s getting the engaged to the polling booth that matters.

That’s why attacking the polling booth itself as corrupt matters, too. Georgia’s runoff electorate has particular historical trends, but these conspiracy theories might hit them the hardest if they gain any traction within the electorate:

And what we’ve seen is that Republicans now have won every statewide runoff in Georgia history.

Every statewide runoff! Why?

The runoff electorate tends to be older and less diverse, which tends to favor Republicans in Georgia. Also, it’s been a real challenge for Democrats to invigorate their African American base for these runoff votes. When you have to go vote again in a month, or in this case it’s nine weeks in later, it’s been hard for Democrats to keep their base in line. It’s been a lot easier for Republicans to get out that vote. …

Republicans still believe this state is fundamentally conservative, fundamentally Republican. And they believe that it was basically just President Trump that is the reason why Joe Biden carried the state so narrowly. It was backlash, especially in the suburbs, against President Trump.

Democrats are trying to recapture the magic that helped them narrowly win the state. But now they’ll have to do it without President Trump on the ballot. They’ll have to convince their loyal supporters to come out when they’re not coming out to vote against Trump.

That’s why Donald Trump Jr spent the morning exhorting Georgia Republicans to ignore the conspiracy theorists, and explicitly supported Loeffler and Perdue. Republicans should win both of these runoff elections, if they don’t defeat themselves first by scaring off their base.

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