Georgia Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are counting on support from conservative voters who prioritise court issues. (Getty Images)
Both Georgia Senate runoffs entered Election Day as virtual ties in the latest public polling, with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock holding statistically insignificant edges over GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
A new poll of 500 likely voters from National Research Inc. released over the weekend found Mr Ossoff and Mr Warnock with just 1-point advantages over their Republican opponents.
The poll aggregating model at FiveThirtyEight showed Mr Ossoff leading Mr Perdue by a weighted average of 1.8 percentage points, 49.1-47.4, and Mr Warnock leading Ms Loeffler by a weighted average of 2.1 percentage points, 49.4-47.2.
It could not get any closer.
But each race, which pits the Democrats and Republicans head to head, must produce a winner.
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At stake is partisan control of the Senate. If just one of Mr Perdue or Ms Loeffler keeps their seat, Senate Republican Mitch McConnell will hang onto the majority he has savoured for the last four years. If Mr Ossoff and Mr Warnock both pull off wins, they will effectively be handing the Senate’s gavel to Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris ready to cast decisive tie-breaking votes.
“Now we take Georgia, then we change the world,” Mr Schumer announced in the middle of a crowd in Brooklyn celebrating Mr Biden’s presidential election victory in November.
Georgia Republicans have been blasting that message out across TV and radio ads throughout the runoff campaign, pitching Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler as the last line of defense between runaway “socialism” and Americans’ current way of life.
Tuesday’s elections are indeed momentous, and will determine whether Mr Biden can quickly assemble his Cabinet, breeze through federal judicial appointments, and make incremental legislative progress towards his agenda.
But a Senate Democratic majority would still need to cooperate with Republicans on bedrock legislative items such as tax code changes, health care initiatives, infrastructure packages, climate change proposals, and another Covid relief package.
Read more: When will we know Georgia election results?
Every public polling aggregator shows that whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate for the next two years is a complete statistical tossup.
In the special election runoff between Ms Loeffler and Mr Warnock, RealClearPolitics’ latest average shows the Democratic challenger with a 0.5-point lead.
Mr Ossoff leads Mr Perdue by the same margin, according to RCP’s average for that race.
Even the traditionally Republican-favouring polling outfit Traflagar Group shows the candidates in a virtual dead heat, with Mr Perdue and Mr Ossoff tied and Ms Loeffler edging out Mr Warnock by 2 percentage points.
No public poll since the November general elections has shown any of the four candidates with a lead greater than the error margin.