Democrats are on the cusp of taking control of the Senate as they celebrate the Rev. Raphael Warnock’s win in one of two Georgia runoffs and as Jon Ossoff declared victory in the other.
“It is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve in the U.S. Senate,” Ossoff said in a video released Wednesday morning, as his margin of victory over Republican David Perdue, whose Senate term expired Sunday, grew to more than 16,000.
Final votes were still being counted, and the race has not been officially called in Ossoff’s favor. But Republicans were pessimistic because most of the remaining uncounted ballots were from the Atlanta and Savannah regions — areas where Democrats have piled up significant majorities.
A key question is whether the race will be decided by a sufficient margin to avoid a recount. Under Georgia law, a candidate can request a recount if the margin is less than half a percentage point.
But the Republicans’ prospect of losing the Senate — their last bastion of power — loomed as they headed into a momentous day Wednesday. Congress is poised to officially confirm Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, but only after a doomed-to-fail effort by many Trump allies who are planning to challenge the inevitable conclusion.
The president-elect has not yet commented on the Georgia results, but his incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said that Warnock’s rival, GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler, hurt herself by declaring on election eve that she would back Trump’s effort to block approval of Biden’s victory.
“Spitballing here, but it may be that telling voters that you intend to ignore their verdict and overturn their votes from the November election was NOT a great closing argument for @KLoeffler,” Klain wrote on Twitter.
Even before Ossoff declared victory, Republicans were already beginning to blame Trump for the party’s poor performance, saying his futile, baseless effort to overturn his own loss in November bitterly divided the party and undercut its candidates in Georgia, who were trying to portray a continued GOP Senate majority as a firewall against Democratic power.
“The president effectively eliminated the most potent Republican argument by refusing to acknowledge he lost in November,” said Josh Holmes, a GOP strategist close to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Holmes, who described the mood of the GOP now as “boiling,” said Republicans’ embrace of Trump-era conspiracy theories has especially hurt the party among suburban voters.
“Suburbs, my friends, the suburbs,” Holmes said on Twitter. “We went from talking about jobs and the economy to QAnon election conspiracies in 4 short years and — as it turns out — they were listening!”
Democrats, meanwhile, seem to have gone beyond holding together the coalition that delivered victory in Georgia for Biden in November. With 98% of the vote counted, both Warnock and Ossoff were leading their GOP rivals by more votes than Biden’s margin over Trump — thanks in large part to strong turnout among Black voters.
Bernard L. Fraga, a political scientist at Emory University, tweeted that it was likely that more Black voters will have cast ballots in the runoff than in the presidential election, a remarkable reversal from previous such contests, when Black turnout typically drops. Overall turnout is likely to come in at just under 90% of what it was in November.
Rick Tyler, a Trump critic who was a political advisor to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, said: “You would have to credit President Trump with completing his trifecta of losing the House, the White House and now the Senate. Will the Republican party ever wake up?”