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Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock Enter Runoffs for Senate Control

By Ty Brown

Incumbent Republican David Purdue’s share of the vote in Georgia’s regular senate election is below 50%. That triggers a second runoff election between him and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff on January 5th. Georgia’s other senate seat, which is currently in the middle of a special election, will go to a similar runoff on the same day between appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock. Because the rest of the 2020 Senate map indicates 48 members of the Democratic caucus and 50 Republicans in the Senate from the rest of the country, control of the senate will be decided on January 5th in Georgia.

The margin for the top of the ticket is extremely close. What we can tell to predict how the runoffs might go is that Senator Perdue is running ahead of Donald Trump, with a current margin of around two percentage points separating their performances. The math for the other seat is much more complicated, but in general Republican candidates have received a slightly larger vote share than for the other seat, or the presidential race. However, the larger number of candidates and competitive race between Loeffler and Collins makes it hard to simply assume that means that Loeffler is in a better position than Perdue. THandicapping these races are madeis made difficult by the much lower turnout associated with runoff elections, although historically that lower turnout has hurt Democrats. Finally, one poll taken after the general election suggests a 1-point Loeffler lead and 4-point Perdue lead, but reading too far into a single poll is dangerous. Other polls will inevitably follow, and then we will have a clearer picture of the state of the race.

Polling has not been as far off in Georgia as it has been in other states. 538’s final Georgia polling average put Biden 1.1 points ahead compared to the actual draw, for a difference of around one point. RealClearPolitics’s final polling average for Perdue’s seat put Ossoff up by 0.7 points, also within a percentage point or so of the actual result. That is a small polling error that worked in the Republicans’ favor on election day, but nothing crazy enough to suggest that any polls taken from here on out about the runoffs should be disregarded. Analyzing the exact results of the special election is made more difficult by the jungle of candidates, although Warnock may not have the vote share that polls suggested. All of this suggests that the runoffs will be competitive, in an uncertain national environment with uncertain turnout and with massive stakes.

Ty Brown is a freshman from the suburbs of Seattle studying political science.