The Jolt: Votes are churning in Georgia’s Republican counties, too

Our state is closing in on two major thresholds.

By Wednesday eve, more than 3.4 million voters had cast ballots, by mail or in-person. And the next 48 hours will be the busiest to come, meaning that we’ll likely surpass the total number of votes cast in 2016 -- 4.1 million.

Early-voting participation in Dawson County, the deeply-conservative north Georgia territory, had already surpassed the 2016 total turnout by early Wednesday.

And Forsyth, Bryan, Greene, Rabun and Butts counties -- all Republican-leaning areas -- were on the cusp of following suit. It’s a reminder that surging turnout isn’t just happening in Democratic-friendly cities and suburbs.

The second threshold is the $200 million mark. As of late Wednesday, roughly $198.6 million had been spent by candidates and outside groups on TV advertising in both Georgia’s U.S. Senate races, according to media guru Rick Dent. Expect a new high-water mark to be set by Friday.


The people over at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball have now declared both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate races to be toss-ups. Senate race No. 2, the special election for the seat now occupied by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, has long been destined for a Jan. 5 runoff. It is Senate race No. 1, which pits Republican incumbent David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Libertarian Shane Hazel that is eyebrow-raising:

We have kept the race as Leans Republican effectively because of our general belief that the runoff could act as a backstop for Perdue: Republicans often have a turnout edge in such races in Georgia. But we really can't rule out Ossoff winning on Election Day -- or winning the runoff depending on the circumstances.


The crush of early votes begs a question that operatives have asked for weeks: Do debates scheduled this close to Election Day even matter?

By the time WSB-TV airs its U.S. Senate debate on Sunday, well over half the voting will be done.

But on Wednesday night, WTOC-TV in Savannah aired a match-up between Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. Libertarian Shane Hazel was not invited.

Ossoff offered an example of why these showdowns still matter -- even if they may not sway a single vote.

His scathing attack on Perdue has been viewed more than 5.1 million times -- and was quickly leveraged to raise more last-minute cash for his campaign. Here’s what he said:

“It's not just that you're a crook, senator. It's that you're attacking the health of the people that you represent. You did say Covid-19 was no deadlier than the flu. You did say that there would be no significant uptick in cases. All the while, you were looking after your own assets, and your own portfolio. And you did vote four times to end protections for pre-existing conditions. Four times."

Perdue, meanwhile, declared a smothered and covered victory of his own and then headed to Waffle House with his wife Bonnie to celebrate. The question Perdue now needs to ask about the WSB-TV debate is this: What’s in it for him?

We’re just picking up word that President Donald Trump will pay one last visit to Georgia on Sunday -- setting up a possible conflict for that debate.


On Wednesday, Doug Richards of 11Alive caught U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler outside a campaign event and pressed her on a statement she made during her one and only debate – that she had never disagreed with anything President Donald Trump had ever said or done:

Richards: “You know that President Trump was caught on tape talking about sexually assaulting women. You didn't disagree with that. What does that say?"

Loeffler: “Look, what I agree with is the approach President Trump has taken since Day One to put America first. What I am here focused on is working for Georgians in Washington and being their voice, and being a conservative champion for Georgians…"

Richards: “You're still not disagreeing with President Trump's statements about personally assaulting women."

Loeffler: “I'm not familiar with that."

Third party: “The Access Hollywood tape. He's referring to the Access Hollywood tape."

Loeffler: “Yeah, no. Look, this president is fighting for America…."

The problem here for Loeffler is that, during that debate last week, she accused her chief GOP rival, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, of a sexist line of attack. And her campaign slammed House Speaker David Ralston when he said that Loeffler had “married well.”

If you profess outrage over that, yet claim ignorance about one of the most talked-about episodes of the 2016 presidential contest, a revelation that helped fuel the #MeToo era, you end up casting doubt on both positions.

Later, at the same event, CNN’s Manu Raju asked this of Loeffler: “Will you flatly disavow QAnon right now?”

The senator responded, “Yes, I don’t...I disavow it. I don’t know what it is.”


One of the great joys of writing The Jolt is the ability to take two separate developments and show how they make sense when paired together.

State Sen. Sheikh Rahman, D-Lawrenceville, has produced (and paid for) a TV spot touting the Democratic ticket – in Bengali, the language of his native Bangladesh and portions of India. It’s being broadcast nationwide, via a Bengali satellite network:

There are upwards of 400,000 Bengali-speaking voters in the U.S., and perhaps a tenth of them live in metro Atlanta, Rahman said.

That reminded us of a New York Times piece from earlier this week that attempted to explain why Georgia has become a presidential battleground state. These paragraphs struck home:

Charles S. Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, puts his state in a category with Virginia, North and South Carolina, Florida and Texas that he calls the “Growth South," as opposed to the “Stagnant South," represented by states like Mississippi and Arkansas. He argues that this may be a better way to think about the changing region, and the Democrats' growing strength in parts of it, than the old dichotomy between “Deep South" and “Rim South" states.

Growth South states, he said, “are attracting a racially and ethnically diverse population. So more Hispanics are moving into them, as well as a variety of Asians — Koreans, Indians, Chinese. These groups are all more Democratic than not."

Dr. Bullock noted that in 1996, when the Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole bested the saxophone-tooting son of the South Bill Clinton in Georgia, about 77 percent of the people who cast ballots in Georgia were white.

As of the close of voter registration earlier this month, white voters make up 53% of the electorate.


Over at, George Chidi is getting worried about the dysfunction he’s seeing in the DeKalb County elections operation:

DeKalb County has about 560,000 registered voters and a minimum of 75 percent of them traditionally vote for Democrats. Given the uptick in registration and voter turnout this year it might be more like 85 percent. More than 240,000 people here have already voted.

A five percent difference in voter turnout in DeKalb is about a net 22,500 votes for Democratic candidates. And that, alone, might be more than the difference between a win and a runoff in the senate races. It may decide whether Trump or Biden wins Georgia.


Georgia Democrats are continuing their efforts to shore up support for presidential nominee Joe Biden among Black men -- with an impromptu “Shop Talk” event tonight featuring director and Morehouse College alum Spike Lee.

The 7 p.m. session on Zoom will be moderated by Mike Muse and feature actor Hill Harper, as well as former ESPN anchor Michael Smith. Interested parties can find details here.


In endorsement news:

-- U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., who serves as co-chair of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, is backing former Morehouse College president Robert Franklin in the Fifth District special election runoff. Franklin’s opponent in the race is former Atlanta city councilman Kwanza Hall. The winner in the Dec. 1 contest will hold the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s seat through Jan. 2.

-- Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson and state Insurance Commissioner John King have endorsed Karen Handel in Georgia’s Sixth District congressional race. Handel, a Republican, is challenging Democratic incumbent Lucy McBath.