When Senator David Perdue (R-GA) theatrically mocked the first name of Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris during a rally in front of President Trump and a fiery crowd last week, it was a reminder to a national audience that there was, in fact, another heated US Senate contest in the battlefield state of Georgia.
And this race could be just as intense as the Shakespearean blood feud between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) – and, at the very least, just as crucial in the battle for broader control of the US Senate next year.
The contest between Perdue, a first-term Republican, and Jon Ossoff, a Democrat who in 2017 ran and lost in the first successful special election of the Trump era, has flown under the radar. But this year’s events have dramatically raised the stakes in the race – in particular, a shifting political terrain at the national and state level that has put real gains in Georgia within reach of Democrats, and a COVID crisis that has sparked scrutiny. ethics on Perdue.
In February, the Cook Political Report assessed the race as a “likely” victory for Perdue. Now he’s seen as a draw, with recent public polls showing Perdue and Ossoff neck and neck and the Democrat outscoring the GOP holder by $ 8 million. Ossoff’s campaign says they’ve raised over $ 2 million on their own since Perdue’s crack about Harris, a taunt they sought to fashion into an anti-Perdue slogan.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has long recognized the risk of this race: his Senate Leadership Fund has so far spent more than $ 32 million on ads attacking Ossoff – representing one in five dollars spent to date, to Senate Leader GOP super PAC.
These trend lines mean that Ossoff’s campaign predicted he could wipe out 50% of the vote on November 3, which would give him an outright victory and slash a runoff under Georgia’s electoral rules.
An internal Ossoff Camp poll, conducted by Garin Hart Yang Research Group October 11-14 and shared with The Daily Beast, found that in a head-to-head race, Ossoff hit the 50% threshold for avoid runoff, with Perdue at 45 percent. When the poll included libertarian candidate Shane Hazel, Ossoff kept a five-point lead over Perdue but shot 48%, which is not enough to avoid a second round.
“Senator Perdue and Donald Trump are maxing out with their support in the state,” Ossoff campaign manager Ellen Foster wrote in a campaign note on Wednesday. “We would expect that if the next two weeks go like the last two weeks, we’ll see Jon with an outright win next month.”
That internal picture is much rosier than where public polls have shown Ossoff – generally tied with Perdue or closely following him, well below 50% support anyway. A New York Times poll released Tuesday found the two were tied at 43 percent. But privately, Republicans believe Perdue is in real danger, either on November 3 or in a January runoff, if the Democrats’ environment continues to improve and Trump does not recover his own numbers. Recent polls have found Democratic candidate Joe Biden tied for or at the helm of Trump in Georgia.
“That says it all that he’s close,” said a GOP strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity to frankly discuss the race. The strategist attributed the narrowness of the race to the harsh environment for the GOP and a fast-paced Georgia – and suggested that a different candidate from Ossoff might have already put Perdue on the sidelines.
But it’s fitting that Senate scrutiny could rest on a race in which the political arcs of the Trump era are so clearly visible. The competition pits a case study of Trump’s full adoption by the GOP against the liberal #Resistance’s first big hope, and each party has been aggressive in presenting their opponent as a nasty, cardboard-cut substitute for the worst of their lives. left. elements.
Perdue, who arrived in Washington in 2014 as a rich tea-molded businessman, has become one of Trump’s most loyal infantrymen in the Senate, enthusiastically supporting him and rallying to his defense even when his colleagues Senate Republicans did not. Last year, Perdue said it was “scandalous” to claim it was racist of Trump to say that four Democratic women of color should be “kicked out” to where they came from. The senator’s blatant dog whistle in mocking Harris’s name last week to Democrats only made that attachment stronger. Perdue’s campaign insisted he only mispronounced the name of a colleague in the Senate with whom he served for nearly four years.
For Democrats, Perdue was also a useful way to fight Trump’s Washington swamp excesses. The senator reported buying shares in a company producing personal protective equipment on the day of a private senators briefing on the coronavirus in January. Perdue denied exchanging this knowledge and attacked Ossoff as a liar for alleging he was corrupt. But in a September announcement on the matter, Perdue appeared to confirm that its investing activity had been the subject of an investigation by the Department of Justice and the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission, which had it. all clear of any wrongdoing.
The Daily Beast reported in September that Perdue, from 2017 to 2019, said he bought and sold shares of a fintech company during timely events that affected the value of the company. The senator’s office said an independent adviser looks after his portfolio and has nothing to do with trades.
Perdue supporters downplay the idea that any of these developments will seriously hamper his path to a second term. “When it comes to boosting his base and building loyalty, his partnership with Trump is a net positive for him here,” said Brian Robinson, a Republican agent from Georgia. “He’s been so ardent, and true to it, that he doesn’t have to go out and tell everyone he’s a Trump guy.
Robinson added that Perdue could benefit even Georgian voters who cannot stand Trump but prefer Tories to the ballot. “There are Republicans who are uncomfortable about Trump who say, please God, let’s keep the Senate,” he said. “They don’t hesitate at all about it. This benefits Perdue. “
Democrats feel different and see Perdue’s missteps as paving real paths to victory. “In this environment, I don’t think he gets a pass,” said Howard Franklin, a Democratic strategist in Georgia, who said the issue of stock trading and Harris’ comments have “a real potential to cast a shadow longer than the political figure. Perdue spent a few years polishing before Trump became president. He is in perilous waters.
The mere mention of Ossoff, 33, seems to increase the blood pressure of Republicans. A documentary filmmaker and former congressional aide with no experience in an elected post, Ossoff’s main claim to fame is that he came within three points of winning a deep red seat in the United States House at outside of Atlanta in June 2017. During that candidacy, he became a celebrity cause for excited Liberals, raising a remarkable $ 23 million in what was seen as the first major test of anti sentiment. -Trump after the 2016 election.
To Republicans, Ossoff is the archetypal avatar of the Resistance online – a superficially attractive costume that raises millions of contributions and polls with the “D” next to his name and nothing else. So far, he has led a mid-level liberal campaign focused on issues such as healthcare, the attack on Perdue, and the incumbent’s connection to Trump. Perdue, meanwhile, worked overtime to bind Ossoff to the far left of his party, hardly ever mentioning his opponent without the words “radical socialist.”
Georgia Democrats say the GOP runs the risk of underestimating the candidate they love to hate. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he surpasses expectations,” said Franklin, who advised a rival Ossoff in the Democratic Senate primary. “I think he’s going to surprise people. For me, a big surprise would be to win the race. Another surprise would be to be the first to get the vote and go to the second round, ”he added. “Both are possible.”
Franklin noted that when Ossoff jumped in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election in 2017 – a historically conservative suburban seat Trump won in 2016 – few thought Democrats stood a chance. Although he lost, his performance proved to be a harbinger for future Democratic gains in the suburbs, and in 2018, a Democrat, Representative Lucy McBath (D-GA), toppled the Republican who had beat Ossoff. “If you look at Ossoff longitudinally, he has consistently exceeded expectations,” Franklin said.
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