GOP Warning Sirens Blare as Early Voting Flounders in Key Counties During the Georgia Senate Runoff
Georgia Twitter erupted this Sunday when Donald Trump tweeted that he’s heading down to Georgia on January 4, 2021, for a rally in Dalton. When the president of the United States holds a political rally in a town of 33,000 people, he’s either lost or desperate. Considering that his lawsuits all look about like a house of cards after a category five hurricane, my money’s on desperate.
For Senators Loeffler and Perdue, sharing a stage with Trump the day before the election is also one heck of a risk. Earlier this month, they hosted his only post-election rally to-date in Valdosta, Georgia. This heavily Republican metro area includes Lowndes, Brooks, Echols, and Lanier counties. Last November, 33,715 (57.66%) Valdosta metro area voters picked Trump. 64.64% of them voted during advanced voting. That’s the official name for in-person early voting, which is technically a form of absentee voting. Ironically, considering Trump’s attacks on mail-in absentee voting, another 12.66% voted for Trump by mail.
Perhaps, some thought that hosting a Trump rally would send Valdosta voters rushing back to the polls for the runoffs. It hasn’t. By December 29, 2020 — day 14 of early voting — early voting turnout in Lowndes County is down 5.54% compared to the same point back in late October, which is minor. Brooks fell 6.76%, Echols 9%, and Lanier a heart attack inducing 19.72%. If anything, folks in Valdosta now treat early voting as if the voting machines might cough on them.
Why would any semi-sane politician running for office hold a rally with someone who may accidentally on purpose persuade their voters to stay home? Remember, Trump is the same man who recently vetoed the Defense Authorization Act and also demanded $2,000 stimulus checks after his party, including Senators Loeffler and Perdue, finally agreed to $600. Growing up, my momma taught me that actions speak louder than words. Trump’s actions suggest that he sees the GOP as the enemy. For Loeffler and Perdue, attending this rally is stupid at best and political suicide at worst. Why take the risk?
They have nothing left to lose and everything to gain.
The first sign of trouble for the GOP came at 2:35 AM on December 20, 2020, when the Georgia Secretary of State dropped another absentee file update. The day before was the first day of weekend early voting in the Georgia runoffs. While rural counties closed their polls, Atlanta’s stayed open. That Friday, Republican-leaning counties were only 21,446 early ballots in the hole. Overnight, their deficit tripled. The gap grew with each passing day and now sits at 161,043 in-person early ballots — 334,635 if you include returned absentee ballots.
By December 29, 2020, over 2.3 million Georgians had cast their ballots. While no one knows how they voted, it’s safe to assume that Loeffler and Perdue will lose Fulton County, where turnout is sitting at 67.5% of its November total. Whitfield County, on the other hand, is a sure bet for Republicans. Located in the heart of the 14th Congressional District, Whitfield County, home of Dalton, Georgia, is only at 53.1%, representing an 8.73% decrease compared to the same point during November’s early voting period.
Overall, the 14th Congressional District is at 50.5% of its November 2020, making it the congressional district with the worst early voting turnout in the state. Over in the 5th — John Lewis’s home turf — 66.6% of folks who voted in November have already voted in the runoff.
Now, the 14th includes the same people who looked at QANON Princess Marjorie Greene and thought, “Yep, she’ll be a good ‘un.” In their defense, Congress has a particular reputation in rural Georgia. The saying goes that they (Congress) don’t have enough sense to pour pee out of a boot. Her voters probably thought that one more crazy wasn’t going to make a difference. Plus, electing Greene means they get rid of her six months out of the year. (Unfortunately, they inflicted her on the rest of the country.)
A few months ago, Trump won 25,636 (69.77%) votes in Whitfield County. Voters cast over half of these during early voting. Including absentee ballots, 64.86% of Trump’s winning total in Whitfield County occurred before election day. At 34.96%, their election day turnout was relatively high but not decisive. In this county, Trump won more votes during in-person early voting than Biden won over the entire period. Now, early voting is down.
A similar scene is playing out in the 11th (Barry Loudermilk — R), 1st (Buddy Carter — R), and the 9th (Doug Collins -R). During the primary, Loeffler and Collins tore each other to shreds. Everyone expected a slight decrease here but not in the others. If you go georgiavotes.com and sort Georgia’s congressional districts by “% of ’20,” the 8th District, where I live, is the sole bright spot if you’re a Republican senate candidate. Unlike in past elections, the top-performing districts are all held by Democrats.
Campaigns now have less than three days of early voting left. Georgia’s runoffs are typically a foregone conclusion. However, this one is different because voters in Democratic counties showed up for early voting while some Republicans stayed home. As election day barrels down on us like an out-of-control freight train, Democrats are still in the game. Both sides are scrambling for votes.
In some ways, the Dalton rally is a last-ditch effort to get butts to the polls. GOP turnout may hinge on this single event the day before the election. Whether Trump will drive people to the polls or leave them hiding in their basements is anyone’s guess. For the GOP, any chance is better than their current trajectory.
That said, we all recognize that Loeffler and Ossoff are not strong candidates for a Georgia US Senate seat. She’s from Illinois. Ossoff is twenty years too young for the job. If either wins, it will be because they rode a stronger candidate’s coattails into office.
• State of Georgia Voter Absentee Files for January 5, 2021, Federal Runoff Election. Access date 12/29/2020.
• State of Georgia Voter Absentee Files for the November 3, 2020, General/Special Election. Access date 12/16/2020.
I am not releasing the absentee voter file analysis R code because data is still pouring in.