Does it really make sense, though, that Loeffler would have narrowly lost a two-way race on Election Day when Perdue would narrowly have won his? Well, maybe. Perdue is an elected incumbent whereas Loeffler is not — she was appointed to her seat to replace now retired Sen. Johnny Isakson — and elected incumbents generally perform stronger than appointed ones. Furthermore, Loeffler, in an effort to outflank fellow Rep. Doug Collins, the other leading Republican candidate in that race, positioned herself as extremely conservative, running an ad that called her “more conservative than Attila the Hun” and bragging about her “100 percent Trump voting record.” (Loeffler had, indeed, voted with Trump 100 percent of the time until recently, although she broke ranks with him in voting to approve the The National Defense Authorization Act.) But while this may have been good messaging to finish ahead of Collins, it’s not necessarily the best way to win over suburban voters, who helped turn Trump out of office.
It’s also possible that at least some voters were voting tactically in the special election. A moderate voter who preferred Warnock to Collins but Collins to Loeffler might have chosen to use her vote for Collins on Nov. 3, figuring based on pre-election polls that Warnock was nearly certain to advance to the runoff and didn’t need her vote. Or — who knows — some Democrats who assumed Warnock was a shoo-in to reach the runoff could have voted for whichever Republican they thought would be easier for Warnock to defeat in the runoff.
I’m not saying there are necessarily large numbers of voters in these categories. But there may be some of them.