The latest early voting numbers released Thursday morning by state officials indicate that more than 2.8 million people – or more than a third (36.4%) of all registered voters in Georgia – have already cast a ballot in the election. That’s well more than half of the record-setting 4.9 million total voters in the state who cast in the general election.
Democrats are optimistic about the chances of challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock defeating Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler based on the early-vote numbers. The figures show that Black voters – a crucial base of the Democratic Party – making up a larger percentage of the early-voting electorate than in November’s general election. And they show higher turnout in Democratic congressional districts than in their GOP counterparts.
That’s making Democrats less nervous about a repeat of the usual voter turnout drop among their supporters in past Georgia runoff elections. And it means that Republicans will have to work harder to get out their voters on the runoff election on Jan. 5, in contests that are all about getting out the base rather than trying to persuade undecided voters.
Veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor who was the political mastermind behind both of President George W. Bush’s White House victories, wrote in a memo earlier this week that "the combined total number of votes cast so far by absentee mail-in and in-person early voting is a couple points more Democratic than it was in the fall."
Longtime Georgia-based Republican consultant Chip Lake acknowledged that "the early-voting numbers are certainly a little more favorable to Democrats than the early-voting data that we had in November."
Rove, who is steering a major Georgia runoffs Republican fundraising operation, predicted, "GOP numbers to keep rising this week and forecasts show good weather for Run-Off Day, Jan. 5."
Lake emphasized that "Republicans need to have a strong Election Day turnout on Tuesday. Election Day votes count the exact same as early votes. We had just under a million people vote on Election Day on Nov. 3."
"For Republicans to win these runoff races, I think it’s crucial that we need to have Election Day turnout at 800,000 votes or higher on Tuesday," he added.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the Senate GOP reelection arm, has been pouring resources into Georgia to help Republican turnout surge.
"The ground operation is a difference maker when there’s almost a half billion dollars being spent on the airwaves. The NRSC was on the ground in Georgia early to build the most sophisticated voter contact effort the state has even seen in order to help Senators Perdue and Loeffler capture victory on Jan. 5," NRSC communications director Jesse Hunt highlighted.
Republicans are counting on a boost from President Trump, who returns to Georgia on Monday night to hold an election eve rally with Loeffler and Perdue that’s being held in the heavily Republican northwest corner of the state.
"President Trump’s visit to Dalton for a rally Monday night Jan. 4 should help drive GOP turnout that Tuesday in a big way," Rove said in his memo, which was first reported by Politico and also obtained by Fox News.
Perdue communications director John Burke told Fox News that "Senator Perdue has always been proud to stand with President Trump and is looking forward to joining him on stage in Dalton on Monday night. President Trump is committed to making sure we win these crucial runoff elections, hold the line to protect our Senate Majority."
But Trump won’t have the state to himself on the eve of the election.
President-elect Joe Biden will campaign the same day with the two Democratic challengers: Ossoff and Warnock.
Biden’s trip to Georgia – like Trump, it’s his second during the runoff campaign – appears to be a sign the Democrats are increasingly confident they can pull out wins in both contests, which would make it a 50/50 Senate. But thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, the Democrats would enjoy a razor-thin majority in the chamber, as well as narrow control of the House.
Biden edged out Trump in Georgia in the presidential election, becoming the first Democrat to carry the state in more than a quarter century. Incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday that the trip by Biden shows his message is once again resonating with voters.
But she emphasized, "We’re not naive about the fact that this is a special election in early January, and we’re going to take no vote for granted."
In Georgia, where state law dictates a runoff if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, Perdue narrowly missed avoiding a runoff, winning 49.75% of the vote in the general election. Ossoff trailed by roughly 87,000 votes.
In the other race, Loeffler captured nearly 26% of the vote in a whopping 20-candidate special election to fill the final two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. Loeffler was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp after Isakson stepped down due to health reasons. Warnock won nearly 33% of the vote in the special election.
Lake predicted that it may take a few days before we know who won the twin elections.
"We can expect a very, very, close election," he said. "An election that might be so close that we might not know who won these races on Tuesday night. It could be a few days after that until all the votes are counted."