As vote counting continues in two crucial Senate run-off election in the US state of Georgia, an unlikely upset looms which would dramatically enhance the position of incoming president Joe Biden.
While anything can still happen, with more than half the vote counted, the Democrats look poised to perhaps clinch both Senate seats and tip the balance of power in the US upper house in favour of the party.
In the once reliably Republican state, Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are trying to cause an upset against the Trump-backed Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
As the Republicans grow nervous, the Trump camp is keeping up the fight and has been slammed as having “zero shame” after sending out fundraising texts questioning the legitimacy of the ongoing vote count.
What’s at stake?
The Republicans need just one victory in either race to maintain Senate control and force Biden to contend with a bitterly divided government.
Democrats, on the other hand, need to jag both seats for a 50-50 split in the Senate, giving the tie-breaking vote to incoming vice president Kamala Harris, who will succeed Mike Pence as the Senate’s presiding officer.
Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor, is facing Raphael Warnock, 51, who serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr grew up and preached.
The other race is between 71-year-old former business executive David Perdue and Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member.
Dems clinch one seat, other race too early to call
Early on both Democrats had a small lead in votes counted, but much of that vote came from ballots cast before Election Day, which generally favour Democratic candidates.
At about 1pm AEDT, the Republican candidates inched in front but with votes still coming in from metropolitan areas around Atlanta – a Democratic stronghold – it is looking good for Joe Biden’s party, according to the data wonks.
At 2pm AEDT, Loeffler had a lead of about one and a half percentage points while Perdue was leading by about 2.5 percentage points. However both Republican leads are expected to melt.
With more than three quarters of the vote counted, the New York Times is tipping the Democrats to take both seats, while some analysts and data scientists have already started projecting a double loss for the Republicans.
On CNN, veteran journalist Jake Tapper said he is picking up a lot of optimism among Democrats while one Republican told him: “we’re toast”.
At about 3:30pm AEDT (11:30pm in Georgia), Warnock had pulled ahead with votes from favourable counties still to come while Ossoff was trailing by just 450 votes.
As midnight approached in Georgia, it was unclear when the result will be definitive.
I don't see a plausible path for Republicans to hold onto these Senate seats.
— Tom Bonier (@tbonier) January 6, 2021
I've seen enough. Raphael Warnock (D) defeats Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) in GA's special Senate runoff. #GASEN
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) January 6, 2021
Indeed, Democrats now have their largest leads of the night as the first Atlanta area ballots arrive, with both candidates favored to prevail by at least a percentage point and Warnock inching up to a projected 1.7 pt edge
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) January 6, 2021
The optimistic case for the GOP is that they do well enough with suburban, college-educated whites that live just outside Atlanta to swing the race by a hair. But while we don't have a _ton_ of data there, what we have so far hasn't surprised any of the models I'm looking at
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) January 6, 2021
At 6pm AEDT, the networks including NBC, CNN, CBS, the New York Times and the Associated Press called one Senate race for Rev. Warnock.
The Republicans are clinging to a one seat majority, for the moment.
As Ossoff grows his lead to more than 9,000 votes in the remaining race, the Republicans look all but certain to lose the upper house.
Since Donald Trump came to power, the Republican party has lost the House of Representatives, the presidency, and is now on the cusp of losing the Senate as well.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) January 6, 2021
‘Zero shame’: Team Trump rehash conspiracies
For months, the Trump team have failed in their bid to subvert the election results through more than 50 failed lawsuits and by exciting supporters with wild and debunked conspiracy theories of dead voters and dodgy voting machines.
As Donald Trump and the Republican party stare down the barrel of yet another defeat, the Trump campaign is going back to the well.
In a campaign text sent to supporters, Trump trotted out the same tired conspiracies, trying to muddy the waters after voting machines were temporarily halted in one county.
“Pres Trump: Is it true that voting machines ‘stopped working’ earlier in Georgia today?” the text read.
“Are Dems trying to STEAL this election? Fight back.”
The Voting System Implementation Manager for Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, had earlier rebuffed the suggestions by Trump on Twitter.
“This issue in Columbia Co. was resolved hours ago and our office informed the public about it in real time,” he said.
“The votes of everyone will be protected and counted. Sorry you received old intel Mr President.”
Nonetheless, hours later the Trump team pushed the conspiracy in a bid to solicit donations.
“Fact checked 7 hours ago in a viral tweet from GA official and the Trump campaign still goes with the disinformation about voting machines in fundraising texts. Absolutely zero shame,” NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny said on Twitter.
The president, meanwhile, is rehashing well-worn conspiracies about his own election loss.
In a rally yesterday, Trump encouraged his loyalists to turn out in force for the Senate run-off elections, telling them it could be “the most important vote they cast for the rest of their lives”.
Meanwhile thousands of Trump supporters descended on Washington DC ahead of the Senate procedure Wednesday (local time) that will see Joe Biden officially confirmed by Congress as the next US President.
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