Democrats dare to hope they can capture the Senate after runoffs confirmed in Georgia's races

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Georgians are heading to the polls once more - Bloomberg 
Georgians are heading to the polls once more - Bloomberg

Democrats were daring to believe they could take the US Senate after it was confirmed that two tight races in Georgia were headed to a runoff in January.

The confirmation of a re-run for the state's two senate seats means the country is set for a second bruising election race with national significance in a matter of weeks.

The races will determine the balance of power in the US Senate, and ultimately the success of Joe Biden's presidency given the chamber has the power to approve or veto his cabinet nominees and legislation.

The runoffs will see Republican senator Kelly Loeffler face Democrat Raphael Warnock, a black pastor at the church where Martin Luther King Jr preached. 

In the second Georgia race, Republican senator David Perdue will face Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old media executive.

The runoffs were confirmed after no candidate reached the 50 per cent mark required under Georgia law, with Mr Perdue receiving 49.8 per cent in his race and Rev Dr. Warnock 32.9 per cent.

News of the runoff elections have already received national attention and triggered large donations to both parties for what could be the most consequential senate race in decades.

Pundits have cast the races as a referendum on the presidential election result, with Mr Biden claiming victory last night but Donald Trump claiming electoral fraud and giving no indication that he intended to concede.

 Rev. Raphael G. Warnock is taking on Republican senator Kelly Loeffler - Atlanta Journal-Constitution 
Rev. Raphael G. Warnock is taking on Republican senator Kelly Loeffler - Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“A Democratic majority in the US Senate would be the biggest difference maker to help President-elect Biden deliver for working families across the country and in Georgia, where, for too long, they have been denied the help they need by President Trump, Mitch McConnell and a Republican-led Senate,” Chuck Schumer, the top Democratic senator, said on Saturday.

Mr Perdue's campaign in turn warned a vote for his Democratic opponent would be “a vote to hand power to Chuck Schumer and the radical Democrats in Washington.”

It was estimated that another $100 million could be poured into the races, while a super PAC associated with anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, pledged to spend $4 million on both Republican candidates' campaigns.

Two other Senate races, one in North Carolina and one in Alaska, had not been called by Saturday night.

But Republicans were leading in both and expected to win, which would put them at 50 senate seats and the Democrats at 48 seats.

If Democrats took both of Georgia’s seats it would tie the Senate at 50-50. The vice president casts the tie-breaker vote in the Senate, meaning that as vice president Kamala Harris would give Democrats control of the chamber.

In such a scenario Democrats would hold the White House, Senate and House of Representatives, giving them complete control of Washington.

If Republicans win the seats, they will be able to block large parts of Mr Biden's legislative agenda and refuse to confirm progressive appointees to his cabinet.

It appears likely that the Republicans will prevail, given Democrats' longrunning difficulty with voter turnout in the state and the likelihood of less enthusiasm for a January election.

Sen. David Perdue - Getty
Sen. David Perdue - Getty

However Democrats were optimistic, buoyed by Mr Biden's surprisingly strong performance in the state, in part thanks to a huge mobilisation of African American voters.

Democrats have also pointed to a massive voter registration drive which has seen 800,000 voters registered in the state in the last two years, most of whom are under 30 and people of colour.

Regardless of the result, it  is clear that the political landscape of a formerly reliably conservative state is rapidly evolving.

“Change has come to Georgia,” said Democratic candidate Mr Ossoff at a rally on Friday, “and Georgia is a part of the change coming to America.”

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