Early voting in Georgia’s two runoff elections for U.S. Senate passed the 2 million mark Thursday, according to an independent analysis, prompting speculation that President Trump was hurting the GOP candidates.
The vigorous early voting is on pace to match turnout in the Nov. 3 general election, which is remarkably high for a runoff election.
Pollster and political analyst Ron Faucheux said he was surprised by the numbers and attributed the surge in early voting to Mr. Trump’s protracted fight with Georgia election officials.
“The only explanation is that Trump’s behavior could be hurting the Republicans,” he said. “There are more Republican than Democratic voters who say they’re not voting. That could be for any number of reasons, but I think Trump is hurting the [Republican] brand.”
On Thursday, early turnout for Jan. 5 runoffs was just 7% lower than at the same point in the general election vote, according to state election data compiled by GeorgiaVotes.
The figures are expected to climb higher as more of the 1.3 million requested absentee ballots are submitted, according to the Georgia Secretary of State.
The figures mark a surprising trend because runoffs traditionally see much smaller turnout than general elections, particularly those like last month’s that shattered turnout records in many states. At this point before the general election, 2.2 million early votes had been cast.
While a surge in early voting would appear to favor Democratic candidates, Republicans on the ground insist they see waves of support for their candidates.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm on the ground and a growing realization of the stakes in this election,” said Alfredo Ortiz, leader of the conservative Keep America America group that is doing a bus tour through Georgia.
“Georgia conservatives will be out in full force on January 5th. We can’t take anything for granted and it will definitely be a close race. But I would rather be in our shoes than their shoes.”
One of the Republican incumbent senators — David Perdue or Kelly Loeffler — needs to win for the GOP to maintain its majority in the Senate. They face Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively.
The astonishing turnout figures in November are regarded as one of the key factors in allowing President-elect Joseph R. Biden to put Georgia into the Democratic column for the first time since 1992. He defeated Mr. Trump by less than 12,000 votes out of more than 5 million ballots cast.
While both races remain neck and neck in the polls, the most recent surveys showed Ms. Loeffler possibly slipping after holding a narrow lead in every poll since Dec. 1.
A Fox 5/Insider Advantage poll showed Mr. Warnock up by 2 points and a WTIX-TV/SurveyUSA poll gave him a 7-point lead.
In the other runoff, Mr. Perdue clings to a 1-point lead over Mr. Ossoff in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.
The races remain tight despite massive spending to bombard voters with TV ads.
As of Friday, the total spent on the races stood at more than $476 million, according to data tracked by veteran Georgia political analyst Rick Dent.
Of that total, Republicans have spent $128.7 million on behalf of Mr. Perdue, compared to $117.2 million in Democratic spending for Mr. Ossoff.
Ms. Loeffler has seen $136.2 million spent by Republicans, while Mr. Warnock’s Democratic spending stood at $94.2 million, according to Mr. Dent’s running tally.
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