Election screening in the USA: live results
(CNN) – It doesn’t matter if Donald Trump or Joe Biden end up beating the state of Georgia in the 2020 presidential race, the state is already guaranteed to be at the center of the political universe in early 2021.
With virtually every vote counted in the state, it now seems entirely possible that Georgia could host not one, but two (!) Senate elections in January. These are contests that, if the numbers in the rest of the country hold up, will position themselves to decide which party controls the largest deliberative body in the world over the next two years.
How do we get here? Well, Georgia has a state law that if no candidate receives a simple majority of votes in the November elections, the top two winners advance to the ballot on January 5th. Which is exactly what appears to have happened in the two seats of the state Senate.
LEE: Minute by Minute: Uncertainty Reigns in America as the Trump-Biden Race Shrinks
Senator-designate Kelly Loeffler (R) finished second to Democrat Raphael Warnock in the first race. It is a special election to fill the seat of retired Senator Johnny Isakson (R) until 2022. None of the candidates have come close to 50% – there were many other serious candidates in the primaries of all parties – and they will meet at January.
In the other Senate race, incumbent Republican David Perdue appeared to have avoided a potential runoff against Democrat Jon Ossoff. It looked like this during the first 36 hours after the polls closed. This is because his percentage of votes was just around 50%. But when the urban core around Atlanta (DeKalb County) began to report its higher vote Thursday afternoon, Perdue was hovering at 50%, making a runoff more likely.
Let us now consider the mathematics of the Senate in general.
So far, Democrats have only won one seat in the 2020 election. Democratic candidates have won in Colorado and Arizona, but Senator Doug Jones (D) has lost his seat in Alabama. Seats considered possible democratic breakthroughs like Maine and Iowa did not materialize. And in North Carolina, Senator Thom Tillis (R) continues to maintain a limited but stable lead over Democrat Cal Cunningham, though the race winner is yet to be announced.
If Biden ends up winning the presidency – which seems more likely at this point – the Democrats would need a net gain of three seats to win a majority. Which, if the map remained as it is now, would mean that if the Democrats win both rounds in Georgia, they would regain control of the Senate.
It could happen? Sure it could. Is this the most likely outcome? To date, given what has been seen in terms of the unexpected strength of Republican candidates in the Senate elections, this is not the case.
LEE: Fact Check: Trump makes the most dishonest speech of his presidency as Biden approaches victory
But make no mistake: supporters (and donors) from both sides can reckon we just did.
Which means they too know what is at stake for the Senate (and the country) in Georgia in the coming months.
Which means millions and millions of dollars will be invested in both races. And both will be covered as presidential mini-races by the state and national media, as there will be no other elections out there.
Invalidating the two possible qualifiers is virtually impossible at the moment due to the level of uncertainty in the presidential race, and in Georgia in particular.
If Biden ends up winning the state, and that’s certainly at least a possibility from now on, then the Democrats could be spurred on to go to the ballot.
Or perhaps Republicans, who have long taken the state’s conservative bias for granted, will see the two possible Senate elections as an opportunity to reaffirm the state’s ideological bias.
Furthermore, with the amount of money and the attention (and scrutiny) of the national media that will fall on these four candidates, it is difficult to know who will thrive and who will wither.
What we do know for sure is that the 2020 elections and the battle for the Senate majority are far from over.
And Georgia is the next battleground.