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What Chuck Schumer doesn't understand about Georgia

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The battle for control of the Senate is still on, and it all comes down to Georgia. In his latest episode of The Point on YouTube, CNN's Chris Cillizza explains how on January 5, the Peach State will decide which party controls the world's greatest deliberative body for the next two years.

Posted: Nov 25, 2020 11:41 AM
Updated: Nov 25, 2020 11:41 AM

For most Americans, this holiday season is a welcome respite, an opportunity to put the long and fractious 2020 election season behind them. But that's not the case here in Georgia. Mixed in with preparations for a subdued pandemic Thanksgiving, Georgians are still being bombarded with dire campaign commercials warning of coal in our Christmas stockings if we cast the wrong votes.

Why is that? Because we have two contested US Senate runoffs on January 5. The Republican incumbents, first-term Sen. David Perdue and recently-appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler, are being challenged, respectively, by Jon Ossoff, a 33-year old owner of a small investigative media firm, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, 51, and senior pastor of Martin Luther King Junior's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

And the stakes could not be higher. Democrats are vying for control of the Senate and their ability to control the legislative agenda of a Joe Biden administration. As Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer recently stated to a cheering New York crowd, "Now we take Georgia, then we change America!"

The Democrats strategy, however, is questionable at best. Though both Ossoff and Warnock are formidable and well-funded, their progressive roots and the Georgia Democratic Party's more recent sharp left turn will make it difficult to prevail in a state that may be emerging purple but is definitely not deep blue.

Before assessing the Democrats' chances, however, first a bit of background about Georgia's modern political history. With few exceptions, Georgia has elected governors who mixed right of center political leanings with real world pragmatism. These have included Democrats like Zell Miller, who pushed tough on crime sentencing laws and also created the HOPE Scholarship for Georgians to attend state colleges tuition free, as well as recent Republicans like Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal, who cut spending to balance the budget, but also boosted the state's entertainment industry and international trade, and advanced criminal justice reform. In the US Senate, Georgia has elected respected problem solvers like Democrat Sam Nunn and Republican Johnny Isakson, each of whom enjoyed strong relationships on both sides of the political aisle.

After Republicans took firm control in Georgia in the early-2000s, Georgia Democrats' strategy was to try and rebuild their old coalition with well known names from their once dominant past. In 2014, for instance, they ran Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, in the gubernatorial race, and Michelle Nunn, the daughter of Sam Nunn, in a US Senate race.

While these efforts came up short, Republicans' margins at the ballot box did begin to narrow. In 2014, Deal, running for reelection, and Perdue, running in his first senate race, both won -- but with only just under 53% of the vote. The same trend occurred on the presidential level, with President Donald Trump carrying the state with only 51% in 2016, and that's in contrast to George W. Bush's performance in 2004 at 58%.

In 2018, Georgia Democrats, tired of feeling like Charlie Brown and the football, welcomed the stage-left entry of Stacey Abrams, a former State House Democratic leader, into the race for governor. A tough-as-nails progressive candidate and strategist, Abrams had argued for years that rather than trying to coax moderates and conservatives back into the Democratic camp, the path for the party in Georgia was to stake out a clear liberal agenda and energize minority demographic groups to register and vote. In Abrams' opinion, these groups had been underrepresented and neglected in the past. In the 2018 governor's race, she ran a spirited campaign, losing by less than 55,000 votes out of some 3.9 million votes cast.

Due to the national star status recognition Abrams received afterward (she delivered the Democratic response to Trump's State of the Union in 2019), and the continuation of her voter registration efforts through her organization Fair Fight, she set the progressive tone for Georgia Democrats this election cycle.

In the Democratic primary to take on Perdue, Democrats and their deep-pocket donors cast aside more establishment-centered candidates, like former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, in favor of the upstart Ossoff, who enjoyed the solid backing of the late civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis and other Georgia progressives, such as Rep. Hank Johnson. Similarly, in the chaotic 20-person race to fill the remainder of Isakson's term, progressives aggressively sought to clear the Democratic field for Warnock, who from the pulpit and the campaign has laid out a clear left-leaning agenda.

But while progressives clearly have significant control of the Georgia Democratic Party, can they win a statewide US Senate election?

Abrams and her supporters point to their voter turnout efforts to take advantage of demographic shifts, though other factors have also played prominent roles in the party's recent presidential success. While Trump holds enormous support in many quarters of the Republican Party, he does not sit well with many traditional, moderate and even conservative suburban voters who showed their displeasure against many Republican candidates in 2018 when he was not on the ballot and then directly against the President himself this year when he was.

In addition, Biden, despite his claims in this year's very liberal Democratic primary to being a "progressive," is still generally perceived by voters as a moderate Democrat, arguably the first to be viewed as such by voters since President Bill Clinton in 1992 -- the last Democrat to win in Georgia -- giving swing voters a perceived safe-haven alternative to Trump.

Further, while Biden did narrowly win Georgia, his coattails proved noticeably short and a hoped-for progressive blue wave did not materialize downballot. Despite Democrats' expectations in October, Ossoff trailed Perdue by 88,000 votes (and captured 100,000 fewer votes than Biden) and Warnock -- even with a significant financial edge over all the other Democrats in the field, universal Democratic establishment support, and a brutal election brawl between Loeffler and her main Republican opponent Rep. Doug Collins -- made an anemic showing with only 33% of the vote. Other state races for Democrats also proved disappointing, with Republicans continuing to hold the state legislature by wide margins.

Finally, with all due respect to Schumer and his boast, Georgia has a history of fearing giving Democrats too much power when they are in the White House. After Clinton's victory in 1992, Georgia elected Republican Paul Coverdell in a general election US Senate runoff. In 2008, after President Barack Obama was elected, Georgians comfortably reelected Republican Saxby Chambliss in a similar runoff.

Therefore, while Republicans have their own problems and challenges, the Democratic progressive strategy in this runoff is risky at best.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 608519

Reported Deaths: 9693
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion840461335
Lake45349684
Allen32803548
Hamilton29394315
St. Joseph27380381
Elkhart24404345
Vanderburgh19411249
Tippecanoe17970138
Johnson15069295
Porter14783169
Hendricks14401248
Madison10965221
Vigo10726181
Clark10677144
Monroe9383110
Delaware9116134
LaPorte9065163
Howard8236144
Kosciusko806983
Warrick672999
Hancock6697104
Bartholomew6484100
Floyd6428110
Wayne6136162
Grant5991115
Dubois555579
Boone551168
Morgan541295
Henry507864
Marshall503984
Cass483263
Dearborn479845
Noble473059
Jackson425047
Shelby417581
Lawrence391079
Clinton373043
Gibson370359
Harrison348144
DeKalb347164
Montgomery345754
Knox335639
Miami321444
Steuben313745
Whitley307326
Wabash303251
Adams300936
Ripley298445
Putnam296850
Huntington291659
Jasper289034
White273243
Daviess270474
Jefferson263338
Decatur247683
Fayette247148
Greene239862
Posey239328
Wells236051
LaGrange228862
Scott225339
Clay222532
Randolph213548
Jennings198936
Sullivan192333
Spencer191321
Washington186423
Fountain184027
Starke175443
Jay167623
Owen165737
Fulton164030
Orange159534
Carroll158015
Rush155118
Perry154229
Vermillion149134
Franklin148333
Tipton132332
Parke13078
Pike116926
Blackford111022
Pulaski97037
Newton90921
Brown88035
Benton86610
Crawford7999
Martin73713
Warren6817
Switzerland6615
Union6287
Ohio4907
Unassigned0376

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 859841

Reported Deaths: 10680
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin101171707
Cuyahoga855711125
Hamilton64017448
Montgomery43107418
Summit34836761
Lucas31350625
Butler30973232
Stark25786435
Warren19671140
Lorain19017223
Mahoning17321338
Lake16080154
Clermont15926111
Delaware1438878
Licking13204137
Trumbull12809316
Fairfield1279381
Greene12055137
Medina11591168
Clark10942265
Wood10348158
Allen9897126
Portage9296109
Miami916873
Richland9139118
Marion7459113
Tuscarawas7381182
Columbiana7327124
Pickaway726150
Wayne7034171
Muskingum703141
Erie6152129
Hancock552390
Ross548998
Scioto539164
Geauga508455
Darke470292
Ashtabula453073
Lawrence452654
Union451828
Sandusky436662
Mercer433589
Seneca430166
Huron428741
Auglaize422264
Shelby421222
Jefferson419269
Belmont416840
Washington388740
Athens38009
Putnam374975
Madison355129
Knox352622
Ashland344938
Fulton338443
Defiance330086
Crawford322374
Preble320637
Brown312921
Logan307332
Ottawa293943
Clinton290143
Williams278667
Highland275118
Jackson263845
Guernsey254125
Champaign252028
Fayette236530
Morrow23234
Perry231318
Holmes225474
Henry218749
Hardin213033
Coshocton205622
Van Wert202245
Gallia196726
Wyandot196051
Pike176217
Adams176115
Hocking172024
Carroll155616
Paulding144321
Noble120540
Meigs108624
Monroe100732
Harrison89121
Morgan83130
Vinton70213
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