Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both remain in solid positions heading into the final week of the critical Georgia Senate runoff races, but their margins are extremely slim in these two contests that carry major national implications.
Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff can give their party control of the Senate, but only if both win their runoff races in Georgia on Jan. 5.
Stable Odds, Uncertain Outcomes
The betting odds on these races have held steady since our last update in early December. According to online sportsbook Bovada, both Perdue (-200) and Loeffler (-145) are favorites in their respective races. Those are the same figures the oddsmaker listed at the beginning of the month.
Signs on the ground show conflicting information about Democratic hopes of springing a couple of minor upsets. NBC News obtained a memo from the two Democratic campaigns showing concern over a spending gap by outside groups favoring the Republicans. Sources also told NBC News that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has stopped meeting with potential donors because he is “pessimistic” about Ossoff and Warnock’s chances, though his office has disputed that report.
“This is absolutely not true,” Schumer spokesperson Justin Goodman told NBC. “Schumer has diligently made calls and fundraised for both Georgia candidates and is optimistic about their chances in January.”
On the other hand, early voting numbers are breaking records. A total of 2.3 million Georgians had voted as of Tuesday morning, through a combination of mail-in and in-person methods. That’s already a record for a Georgia runoff election. Turnout is particularly high in Democratic congressional districts – while it has lagged behind in GOP strongholds – and Black voters are making up a larger percentage of the electorate than in the general election.
The Dem strength is mainly if not entirely due to a stronger Black turnout. This has always been the obvious way for Dems to improve their standing, given relatively weak Black turnout in Nov., and while there aren't any guarantees it sure seems like it's on track to materialize pic.twitter.com/3i2jupOIn3
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) December 29, 2020
Much like in races across the country in the general election, Republicans say they can make up that gap on Jan. 5.
“I feel really good about what we have done down there,” an anonymous Republican operative told Politico. “We always knew Georgia was going to be close. We know where our deficiencies are. We know what we have to do.”
Parties Unlikely to Split Georgia Runoffs
Most likely, both Senate races will go in the same direction, as expectations are that few voters will split their tickets. But if the races do diverge, the most probable split would see Perdue holding on to his seat, while Warnock beats Loeffler in the special election.
|Georgia Senate Runoff Odds (via Bovada)|
|Kelly Loeffler (R): -145||Raphael Warnock (D): +110|
|David Perdue (R): -200||Jon Ossoff (D): +150|
|Republican Party: -250||Democratic Party: +185|
While polling – which correctly indicated a razor-thin race in Georgia on Election Day – has shown two close races, Perdue has run about a point ahead of Loeffler on average. The FiveThirtyEight polling average shows Perdue with a 0.4% edge over Ossoff, while Warnock holds a half-percent lead over Loeffler.
Both of those averages sit well within the margin of error, to say the least. There are still a small number of undecided voters and, with both races this close, turnout operations will almost certainly prove decisive. With both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden headed to Georgia to campaign on behalf of their respective candidates, both races will remain mired in uncertainty until the night of Jan. 5 – if not for a few days afterward.