Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are involved in runoff elections against Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in two of the most consequential Senate races of this century. It’s a unique situation and Republican strategists appear to be adopting a risky course of action. They will package the two candidates as a united firewall against Democrat Joe Biden’s radical policies in a bid to maximize GOP turnout on January 5, 2021.
The risk is in allowing Democrats to define the two candidates as one. And the Democrats aren’t wasting any time.
But the unity ticket also creates opportunities for Democrats. Perdue and Loeffler are both multi-millionaires and rank among the wealthiest senators. Both faced scrutiny for stock trades during the pandemic, which their campaigns say were handled by independent financial advisers.
“They’ve already been lumped together as the pandemic profiteers. It just kind of reinforces that negative story in terms of taking advantage of their position to enrich themselves,” said Jennifer Jordan, a Democratic state senator who represents Atlanta. “These uber-rich people that don’t even want to be around normal Georgians and will do whatever they can to make an extra buck.”
The “kill the rich” message works well in blue states, but in Georgia, it might not resonate quite as much. As for the profiteering charges, neither candidate was cited by the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Justice Department. It was largely a media-driven, anti-Republican attack that almost completely failed to connect.
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Runoff elections are almost entirely decided by the base of each party. While Democrats roused minorities to vote for Biden, getting them to the polls when no other issue or candidate is on the ballot may be problematic. No matter what the Democrats say about “enthusiasm,” history says differently. Turnout will be about 25 percent, which will favor both Republicans.
“It’s a new world in the sense the stakes have been raised — the Senate majority is on the line. Even if you might have been running a different style of campaign during the previous months, this battle resonates with voters,” said Jesse Hunt, the communications director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “Who do you want to run the Senate?”
To some Republicans in the Atlanta area, who are aghast at the state trending blue and fear the prospect of all-Democratic government, it’s an appealing message.
Beth Pfannkuche, a caregiver in Loganville, Georgia, said it’s a “good idea” for them to run together.
It’s a “good idea” as long as neither one of them puts their foot in their mouth or gets caught in some other kind of scandal. That’s the problem with having a running mate — even one from a distance. You can’t control what the other person is going to do.
Loeffler, especially, has shown tendencies toward foot-in-the-mouth disease. She ran an ad where she claimed she was “more conservative than Attila the Hun” which was amusing but neglected the historical designation of Attila as a mass killer.
She overcame that faux pas just as she overcame the opposition of Trump loyalist Rep. Doug Collins who received millions of dollars from Trump’s super PAC. Perdue’s battle is with his record. He tried reaching out to the center during his campaign with limited success. Perdue will tack back to the right for the runoff.
The GOP only needs one of the two Georgia Senate seats to maintain control. One would be good. Two would be better. If they are able to pull it off, the electoral map for 2022 heavily favors the Republicans, meaning they should be in control of the Senate in 2024 when the next presidential election occurs.