Nine weeks after the general election in November, the control of the Senate will finally be decided in the Georgia runoff on Tuesday. Close to half-a-billion dollars has been injected into the two races as both parties race to secure a slim majority in the Senate â€” either to give life to the legislative hopes of President-elect Joe Biden or stamp them out before his term begins. Below is everything you need to know before the ballots are counted in the runoffs between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, and Republican appointee Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock.
Updates will appear in reverse chronological order.
Loeffler joins Trumpâ€™s coup train, will object to certification of Bidenâ€™s win (Perdue says he would if could)
Senator Kelly Loeffler is tying herself to Trumpâ€™s attempted coup on the eve of the Georgia runoffs. She released a statement on Monday that she will be one of the Senate Republicans making a futile objection to the pro-forma certification of President-elect Joe Bidenâ€™s victory during a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.
â€œThe American people deserve a platform in Congress, permitted under the Constitution, to have election issues presented so that they can be addressed,â€ Loeffler said in a statement. â€œThatâ€™s why, on January 6th, I will vote to give President Trump and the American people the fair hearing they deserve and support the objection to the Electoral College certification process.â€
Fox News adds that, â€œA source familiar with Loefflerâ€™s thinking told Fox NewsÂ she will likely object to the certification of Georgiaâ€™s presidential election results and left the possibility open that Loeffler could object to others as well.â€ The same source also said that Loeffler will not be joining Ted Cruz and the 10 other GOP senators who announced on Saturday they would object to confirming Bidenâ€™s win, though itâ€™s not clear any real daylight exists between her and the group.
The announcement is undoubtedly an effort to boost turnout among Georgiaâ€™s Trump supporters on Tuesday, and preceded Trumpâ€™s Monday night rally in the state. On Sunday, a recorded call came out in which the president tried to pressure Georgia election officials to â€œfindâ€ the votes he needed to retroactively defeat Biden in the state. Over the weekend, Loeffler refused to say whether or not she would have voted to override Trumpâ€™s veto of the NDAA defense spending bill last week, if she had been present.
Trump showed up to support Loeffler and Perdue â€” kind of
At a Monday night rally in Dalton, the president took the stage to rally support for the two GOP candidates. However, he spent much of the speech complaining about the November election and condemning Republicans who did not support his attempt to overturn the election. At a rally for other people, he said he doesnâ€™t â€œdo rallies for other people.â€ He also vowed to return to Georgia in 2022 to campaign against Republican Governor Brian Kemp.
Biden tells Georgia voters they have the power to â€˜break the gridlockâ€™ and help Americas get more COVID stimulus relief
At a rally in Atlanta on Monday, President-elect Biden urged Georgia voters to support Warnock and Ossoff, vowing that if they both win, Americans will be able to receive $2,000 COVID stimulus checks they need, and â€œthereâ€™s no one in America with more power to make that happen than you.â€
â€œThe power is literally in your hands. By electing Jon and the reverend, you can break the gridlock that has gripped Washington,â€ he continued.
He also joked that he won Georgia in the presidential election three times â€” in the original vote and two recounts.
Can we expect election results on Tuesday?
Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday night, and in runoff elections, ballots are normally counted quickly. However, a close race will most likely result in some lagging counties that may hold up a call. Although a record number of Georgians voted early, mail-in ballots and in-person early votes cannot be counted until polls close on Tuesday.
So, like the general election two months ago, itâ€™s not clear if we can expect an accurate call for both races on Tuesday night. And like the general, itâ€™s possible that the GOP candidates could jump out to an early lead, with Republican supporters more likely to vote in-person than Democrats.
What is early voter turnout looking like?
A record three million voters have already cast their ballots in the elections, making up 38.8 percent of all registered voters in Georgia. That number swamps the total 2.1 million vote turnout for the last Senate runoff in Georgia which occurred in 2008. Like in the presidential election, Democratic-controlled Congressional districts have seen higher early-voter turnout, while more rural, more conservative areas are expected to see higher in-person turnout on Tuesday.
Will Trumpâ€™s attempt to pressure Georgia officials to â€˜findâ€™ votes affect the runoffs?
As Intelligencerâ€™s Benjamin Hart and Gabriel Debenedetti discuss, the likelihood that the fallout from Trumpâ€™s apparent threat to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will affect any voters in an election cycle as highly-publicized and politically entrenched as this one:
When you have a very close race, you have to watch what happens on the margins. And thereâ€™s no doubt that these kinds of news developments from the president â€” who is promising to quintuple down during his closing-hours rally tonight â€” could cause some Republican-leaning voters to second-guess the use or wisdom of voting for Loeffler or Perdue. In races that could be decided by a few thousand votes, thatâ€™s really significant.
The thing is: Already today, Loeffler and Perdue have been trying to move on from news of this call, in ways that demonstrate how desperate they are to keep the pressure on their Democratic challengers. Thatâ€™s because Dems appear to have aÂ hefty lead through early voting, and Republicans are counting on massive day-of voting on Tuesday. They donâ€™t think they can afford for their voters to focus on this kind of story right now â€¦ but the story is blanketing Georgia.
Where do the candidates stand in the polls?
Though the efficacy of U.S. polling took another body blow in November, polls ahead of the election suggest an extremely tight race:
This post has been updated.