Barring the kind of disputed outcome that has become all too mainstream in U.S. politics these days, Tuesday will end the endless, historically costly, hard-fought and hugely substantial races for Georgia’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.
It is believed that over 3 million Georgians have have already voted during early voting, a development that seems auspicious for Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. Their opponents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are Republican incumbents in a Deep South state that, until recently, had long carved deep red on the electoral map. If Democrats win both races, it would shift control of the Senate to the party by the narrowest of margins, giving President-elect Joe Biden a unified Congress capable of pushing his agenda forward over the next two years.
That’s why the eyes of the political establishment – not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign expenses– have been firmly formed on Georgia since the November general election, when it became clear that the two Senate races would be decided by a January runoff that would determine America’s short-term political reality. Demographic changes and voter engagement efforts helped transform a state that was once a Republican stronghold into a “purple” battleground, as witnessed by Biden becoming the first Democrat since 1992 to bring Georgia to a presidential election. In Ossoff and Warnock, Democrats believe they now have a real chance of winning long-encased seats on the red side of the aisle.
“These are obviously two very similar races, but Democrats have inherent advantages in [Georgia]According to Bradley Beychok, the president of the American Democratic Super PAC Bridge 21st Century. “We just won the presidential election and have made significant infrastructure investments that are paying off with early votes and postal ballot requests.”
Standing in their way are Perdue and Loeffler, two former business leaders whose varied backgrounds have led them through the halls of power on Capitol Hill. Perdue, the lead senator of the two, won congressional elections in 2014 after a past career help US companies outsource their operations overseas—One that culminated in a stint as CEO of a Fortune 500 company in General dollar. Loeffler was appointed to her seat 12 months ago by the Republican Governor of Georgia to succeed incumbent Johnny Isakson; her road took her to Wall Street, where she would end up with the operator of the stock exchange (and the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange) Intercontinental exchange and eventually marry the company’s founder and CEO, Jeffrey Sprecher. With an estimated net worth of $ 500 million, she would be the richest member of Congress.
Yet the two senators now find themselves in a fight for their political lives in the closing stages of races which take place much closer than anyone might have expected a year ago. Polls, as flawed as they proved, indicate that both Ossoff and Warnock have a realistic chance of defeating Perdue and Loeffler in the second round, while odds betting – which has emerged as an increasingly popular way of predicting political outcomes – also has returned in favor of the democrats recently.
If both Republicans lose, it will be seen as a damning indictment of a political strategy that has seen the GOP establishment bend, time and time again, to President Trump’s will in an attempt to appeal to a base. Republican for whom Trump remains exceptionally popular. Perdue and Loeffler were enthusiastic participants in this dynamic, lining up with the president’s tone, rhetoric and platform, even after a presidential election in which he lost their state.
The result was two messy and controversial political conflicts that unfolded along the cracks in American political discourse. Loeffler showed exceptionally willing play the role of warrior of culture, repeatedly attacking Warnock—Who is pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached – as a “radical socialist” and taking an outspoken position against the Black Lives Matter movement that he has done persona non grata among the WNBA team players it owns. Likewise, Perdue enlisted in Trump’s loud and baseless attempts to challenge and discredit the election in which he lost – joining Loeffler in call for resignation by Brad Raffensperger, Republican Secretary of State for Georgia, for his oversight of the election.
Yet despite all their attacks, the two incumbents have themselves proven vulnerable to criticism of their own transactions and conduct. The campaign sparked a wave of negative stories about Loeffler and Perdue’s personal financial transactions, namely their stock trading activities, and whether they took unfair advantage of their public positions. Loeffler was one of the many senators scrutinized for stock market transactions made after receiving private briefings from the Senate at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, while his position on the Senate Agriculture Committee, which oversees the Commodities Futures Trading Commission, has also attention drawn given its links with Intercontinental Exchange. And Perdue would have done thousands of stock market transactions during his stay at Congress, including some raise conflict of interest issues.
Both Loeffler and Lost was reportedly probed by federal investigators for their stock transactions last year, although those inquiries were reportedly dropped without any charges being laid. Still, there is no dearth of other financial deals involving the two who raised eyebrows during the campaign – be it the $ 1.8 million sale from Washington, DC to Perdue, which houses a financial industry lobbyist, or from Loeffler considerable financial ties at Intercontinental Exchange as a sitting US Senator.
Representatives for Loeffler and Perdue did not respond to requests for comment, while the Justice Department declined to comment.
Democrats took the opportunity to hammer home Perdue and Loeffler on the poor outlook surrounding their personal finances at a time when many Americans are struggling economically, spending millions to broadcast. negative attack announcements across the state. And Ossoff and Warnock both went on the offensive against their opponents – with Ossoff memorable scoring Lost a “crook” in one of their debates this fall, which prompted Perdue to withdraw from their remaining debates.
For some observers, Loeffler and Perdue illustrate the state of the Republican Party in the Trump era: an uneasy coalition of wealthy corporate class elites who aligned themselves with populist politics appealing to the white working classes, in the interest of preserving their influence in DC’s corridors of power.
“This is a strange coalition of billionaires and people with enormous wealth with an ideology designed to anger low-income white Americans,” says Richard Painter, government ethics spokesperson who has been Chief Ethics Attorney at the White House in the George W. Bush Administration.
But in a year of sickness and economic desperation for many Georgians, in a state with an ever-changing demographics moving away from Trump’s call, this coalition is showing signs of cracking when it comes to the second round of the Senate. If Democrats can take advantage of it, they could well end up with a Mitch McConnell-proof majority in Congress – and complete control of the federal government – until at least 2022.
“I think the reason people are skeptical of these [Republican] candidates is that they know that they have taken advantage of this pandemic, that they have potentially broken the law and that they are disconnected, ”Beychok said. “Elections are a matter of choice, and this one is clear.”
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