The whole world will be watching the state of Georgia on January 5 for the most important twin Senatorial elections in American history. Democrats have the wind at their backs.
With Republicans all but certain to hold a 50-48 advantage going into the two runoff elections, this is the mother of all pivotal choices: If one or both Republicans win, Senator Majority Leader Moscow Mitch McConnell will rule the U.S. Senate with an iron discolored fist. If Democrats win both, McConnell will be relegated to shaking it.
Overlooked in most of the news coverage so far is this: Both matchups are terrific for the Democrats, and to the extent it becomes a tag-team match, so much the better.
Here’s your fight card: Journalist Jon Ossoff vs. Senator David Perdue; and Pastor Raphael Warnock vs. Senator Kelly Loeffler. In each race, the Republican candidate was a fitting loyalist of Donald Trump in that they possessed matching financial scandals on their own resumes.
These weren’t just any old financial scandals: These were cases of wealthy Republican insider politicians apparently growing wealthier from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the world of campaign messaging, that should constitute the quintessential low-hanging fruit, with Perdue and Loeffler carrying that baggage in common.
Loeffler can claim she was “exonerated”–a familiar enough term–since the Republican Senate Ethics Committee found she violated no federal law or Senate rule when she just happened to benefit from $20 million in stock trades after receiving early briefings in February about the coronavirus outbreak. “Senate Ethics” takes its place alongside “guest host” and “jumbo shrimp” in the annals of famous oxymorons.
Loeffler’s selloffs just coincidentally occurred before the stock market took its deep dive in March. “Her case has gotten more scrutiny because Loeffler’s husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, is the CEO of the Intercontinental Exchange, which owns the New York Stock Exchange,” Forbes reported.
For his part, Loeffler’s Republican senate colleague Perdue had enjoyed equally dumb luck. From the New York Times:
Mr. Perdue, a wealthy former corporate executive, bought stock in DuPont de Nemours, which sells personal protective equipment, on Jan. 24, the same day he received a classified briefing on the threat posed by the coronavirus, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Perdue had tried to explain it all away, with a remarkably straight-face delivery, with the dubious claim this purchase was made without his knowledge by his financial adviser. What sort of cynic would question that good fortune?
Well, Ossoff did. During a debate shortly before the election, Ossoff absolutely pulverized Perdue in a moment that went wildly viral on social media. Here’s how it read in print, in the New York Times:
“It’s not just that you’re a crook, Senator,” Mr. Ossoff said, turning to face his socially-distanced opponent as Mr. Perdue’s eyes remained fixed on the camera. “It’s that you’re attacking the health of the people that you represent. You did say Covid-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while you were looking after your own assets and your own portfolio.”
The moment was a key reason underdog Ossoff was able to storm from far behind to overcome Perdue’s incumbency and higher statewide name recognition, holding him beneath the state’s 50 percent threshold for the Senate seat. Ossoff was outpolled by less than 2 percent, but that’s meaningless now because of the runoff election.
Expect an avalanche of campaign dollars to rain down upon both sides in the crucial contests, so money should not be the advantage that it often is for Republicans. As far star power campaigning, Stacey Abrams’ Georgia is far more likely to play host for people named Obama than people named Trump. Not to mention people named Biden and Harris.
The Rev. Warnock, at 51, is an especially compelling candidate, as the pastor of the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church of Atlanta–Dr. Martin Luther King’s church–who counted the late, great Rep. John Lewis among his parishioners. The filthy-rich Loeffler could not present a better foil for a man attempting to because Georgia’s first Black senator.
Warnock easily outpolled Loeffler by a 7-point margin in Georgia’s open primary for the seat to which she was appointed in January. Republicans are noting that combining Loeffler’s 25.9 percent with Rep. Doug Collins’ 20 percent presents an edge over Warnock’s 32.9 percent tally, but that conveniently ignores all those votes that went to nearly 20 other candidates.
If there were reason to assume all of Collins’ supporters liked Loeffler, he wouldn’t have taken her on as an incumbent. And in her closing debate in the open-primary field, Loeffler proudly claimed to be the Senate’s most conservative member with 100 percent loyalty to Trump.
That might have been a wonderful talking point in another time. But in case she didn’t notice, Biden beat Trump, albeit narrowly, in Georgia.
This isn’t Governor Lester Maddox’s racist Georgia anymore. Next year will mark half a century since the late Maddox held power as governor. Atlanta has emerged as the greatest city for African Americans in the nation and the most influential political center in the South, by a lot.
For Rev. Warnock to defeat Loeffler would provide a powerful message, and there’s a good chance it gets delivered on January 5.
With Vice President Kamala Harris breaking 50-50 ties in the Senate, everything from federal court nominations to consideration of key legislative priorities can no longer get blocked by McConnell, who gleefully characterized himself as the “Grim Reaper” during the Obama Administration. If McConnell were to retain power, he’d hold that power absolutely.
Democrats cannot afford to let that to happen in Georgia’s historic double election January 5. After what the nation did last Tuesday, there’s good reason to believe they won’t.