In 2018, Stacey Abrams and her campaign were going around Georgia proclaiming that the Republicans were going to suppress the vote and Brian Kemp would effectively steal the election.
Up until that point, her GOTV efforts were a powerful force, supposedly raking in hundreds of thousands of new voters. But Abrams was loudly proclaiming that Kemp and the Republicans were going to keep black voters from being able to vote. The logic behind this last-minute tactic was to motivate black voters to get out and vote in larger numbers and give her the win. Instead, it had the opposite effect.
Abrams lost that race by 50,000 votes, and Kemp was able to win and become the governor of Georgia.
On Thursday night, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced that the hand recount of ballots in Georgia confirmed Joe Biden’s vote lead in the state. The announcement puts the state one step closer to certifying the vote and officially giving the state to Biden.
Regardless of how Georgia’s presidential contest ultimately plays out, one data point Raffenspberger shared this week about the results should be kept in mind since Georgia still has two U.S. Senate seats up for grabs, and both are vital to maintain GOP control of the Senate.
Raffensperger made an interesting claim this week when he showed the differences in the vote between the primary and the general election, and the data he pointed to indicates that Trump’s rhetoric on mail-in/absentee ballots may have actually hurt him rather than help him. That would make this the second race in Georgia where pessimism about the election caused negative results.
And Republicans are on track to make it happen a third time, ignoring the races of Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in favor of continuing to relitigate electoral battles that seem all but over.
In many ways, most politically active Americans have lost the ability to compartmentalize. Both sides see politics as all or nothing. The controversy of the Trump/Biden race is still completely overshadowing Georgia’s Senate races, which are fast becoming the two most important races of the next four years. Democrats are funneling money and boots on the ground to Georgia in order to take back the U.S. Senate while the state’s top Republicans are squabbling over the presidential vote and national conservatives are so laser-focused on the presidential race that their Senate candidates are receiving little support.
If Republicans want to keep hold of the U.S. Senate, they are going to want to unify right now behind the idea that these races are a must-win and that the time to bicker over the presidential election results is over. Failure to take this race more seriously gives Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock a competitive edge. They are already flooding the airwaves in Georgia with ads, and outside groups are doing the same thing. Republican ads appear to be lagging behind.
If Biden is eventually declared the winner, it could be said that victory was due to a candidate problem rather than a party problem. But with the presidential race sucking all the air out of the room, it makes it increasingly difficult for the two Senators’ campaigns to shift the focus on them, their records, and their opponents’ histories.
Georgia is not blue. At least not yet. But Republicans need to decide whether or not they want to continue fighting the past battles or win the ones ahead. They can’t do both.