By Jim Ellis
Jan. 12, 2021 — Now that the 159 county returns have been published for the Georgia Senate runoffs and a third more obscure statewide Public Service Commission race, we can see just why the Democrats won the two Senate contests.
The fact that Republican Public Service Commissioner Lauren McDonald was re-elected with the same type of vote margin that saw both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock win allows us to see just where the federal Republican statewide vote was deficient.
As we know, all of these contests were extremely tight. Rev. Warnock had the strongest victory margin among the three, but even his was only 51-49 percent. The final Ossoff victory spread was 50.6 – 49.4 percent, and McDonald, the lone Republican victor, won in the same percentage neighborhood, 50.4 – 49.6 percent.
Obviously, there is little difference among these races and, as we covered previously, the county returns throughout the state show a strong similarity in the Senate totals, thus proving the voters perceived the candidates as being a team. McDonald’s victory, however, does show at least some ticket-splitting tendency was present as enough voters returned to the Republican column to allow him to win re-election.
The drop-off turnout percentage from the general election to these Senate runoffs is the lowest in Georgia political history. The final runoff participation figure recorded a high of 4,474,447 voters, or 90.3 percent of the number voting in the regular Senate elections. Typically, secondary election turnout drops by about one-third. With so much on the line in these runoffs, however, the voters responded in kind.
The key to the election, however, appears to be the percentage turnout in the counties. Democrats maximized their strength to a greater degree, which proved to be the key difference in the Senate runoff outcomes.
Across the board, McDonald ran ahead of the Senate Republicans in virtually every county, but generally only exceeded the other two statewide GOP candidates by less than a percentage point. This slight increased vote spread, however, was enough to turn close losses into a tight victory for the GOP state official.