The GOP needed a miracle in Georgia, so who was the Grinch in Loeffler's race?

I’m rarely accused of being the sunny, optimistic type, but I’ll confess that I was somewhat shocked to learn that Raphael Warnock was declared the winner of his Georgia Senate runoff race as quickly as he was. Given the amount of awful background information on the Pastor from his various sermons and public statements, combined with the historic challenges of running a Black candidate in a statewide race in the Peach State, I’d assumed that Kelly Loeffler would have had the better chance of the two Republicans running in yesterday’s contest. And yet, while still close, it was Warnock who locked up enough votes to post a one percent lead and be declared the winner before Jon Ossoff. (Associated Press)

Democrat Raphael Warnock won one of Georgia’s two Senate runoffs Wednesday, becoming the first Black senator in his state’s history and putting the Senate majority within the party’s reach.

A pastor who spent the past 15 years leading the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. preached, Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. It was a stinging rebuke of outgoing President Donald Trump, who made one of his final trips in office to Georgia to rally his loyal base behind Loeffler and the Republican running for the other seat, David Perdue.

The focus now shifts to the second race between Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. That contest was too early to call as votes were still being counted.

There are a few factors to consider when trying to piece together this puzzle. We knew from a variety of polling results that Black voter turnout was up significantly this month, particularly for an election taking place after the general election date. That’s not to say that the Black vote is 100% homogeneous, but the numbers were clearly tipping in Warnock’s favor there. But was it enough? It wasn’t during the initial race, where Loeffler squeezed out a narrow lead, while still falling just short of the required 50%. So that was one factor, but there were obviously others.

I’m trying to picture the profile of a typical Black voter in Georgia who leans toward the Democratic Party. How many of them would cast a vote for Warnock, but then turn around and either split the ticket with a vote for Perdue or leave the second race blank on their ballot? That just sounds incredibly unlikely. And yet, as of shortly after 8 o’clock eastern this morning, Warnock had recorded roughly 20,000 more votes than Ossoff, even while the total number of votes cast on the Ossoff-Perdue race was measurably higher.

Compared to previous races, the other factor we’re seeing is that the GOP’s turnout was down, albeit slightly. But “slightly” is all you need in a race this close. How do you suppose that happened? While answering any questions involving the word “why” is impossible to fully pin down in the aftermath of an election, there’s certainly one good candidate in this case. President Trump has repeatedly attacked the leadership of his own party in Georgia for the past two months, becoming even more acerbic in the past couple of weeks. It’s impossible to deny that Trump is a major influencer (either positive or negative) among Republicans across the nation. We simply can’t rule out that some Georgia Republicans took Trump’s attacks on the state party for failing to overturn the general election results to heart and either stayed home or possibly even voted for the Democrats to “teach the traitorous state party a lesson.”

If you don’t like that explanation, the rest of the choices on the list aren’t much more appealing. The New York Times is crediting the results to Stacey Abrams because of course they would. Other analysts have speculated that Georgia’s heavy percentage of voters who are regular churchgoers might have tilted toward Warnock as a man of the cloth. I won’t throw that one out entirely, but that demographic breakdown hasn’t traditionally been seen as a major driver of ticket-splitting.

Either way, unless an even bigger miracle arises as they count the final ballots in David Perdue’s race, it’s looking increasingly like the Republicans will lose control of the Senate majority in addition to losing the White House. This puts us mostly back in 2008 territory, and you saw what a horror show that was. Republicans may still win a few tight, ideological battles in the next two years because the Democrats’ margins in both chambers are razor-thin. The GOP will only have to peel off one Senator and/or a handful of votes in the House to turn back any hotly contested measures. But for the most part, Biden, Pelosi and Schumer will have an open field to run with their agenda. There isn’t really any way to paint a sunny picture here. Get ready for some awful times for America.