PERRY, Ga. – The Republican Senate candidates in Georgia are spending tens of millions of dollars on an almost entirely negative publicity campaign, pursuing a strategy of arming the conservative base rather than reaching out to a cross-section of voters to generate enough turnout, to win two critical runoff elections that will rule over Senate control.
Despite the loss of President Trump here, the first few days of the run-off campaign look very similar to the months before them. Incumbent Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have filled the waves of air with devastating charges of aggression to paint Democrats as radicals who fundamentally violate the country’s core tenets and warn that democratic rule over the Senate would usher in a wave of socialism.
According to ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics, the two senators haven’t run a single positive advertisement between them, nor have any two outside groups endorse them. The breathless publicity campaigns and demonization of the Liberals reflect the efforts of the Republican Party and its constituents as they try to deny the Democrats total control of the White House and Congress.
Mr Perdue said at a rally in Perry, Georgia last week that his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, was a “trust fund socialist who lives on family money and makes documentaries no one has ever seen.”
And even when he recognized the dark tenor of the breed, he portrayed himself as a victim of negativity rather than a participant.
“I’m not sure my mother was still alive today, that with all this negative advertising she would even vote for me,” he joked.
At the rally, which featured both candidates alongside Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, Ms. Loeffler said Democratic victories “literally tear the fabric of what makes our country the greatest in the world.”
The runoff elections to the Senate on January 5 will decide whether President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will begin his government with a unified or a split Congress.
If the two Democratic candidates, Mr. Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, win and secure a 50:50 split in the Senate, ties could be severed by elected Vice President Kamala Harris and there are far more political options on the table for Democrats . If Mr. Perdue or Mrs. Loeffler prevail, Republicans could obstruct important laws.
But it’s the way the candidates run that has caught the attention of voters and political strategists, with an avalanche of political publicity emanating from the state. The $ 231 million that has been spent on television advertising for roughly a two-month runoff election has exceeded spending on all of the primary and general Senate elections combined.
There is no escape to the center, despite the fact that Georgia has voted for a democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades and has proven itself to be a true battlefield state. Republicans, who are the favorites in the two races, repeat most parts of Mr. Trump’s message without having him on the ballot. Democrats are trying to build on Biden’s message of pragmatic unity and his electoral formula: a multicultural coalition powered by the urban and suburban areas of the state.
At campaign events and debates, as well as at Airwaves with currently more than 27 different ads, candidates are trying to motivate their own bases rather than worrying about swing voters. Both parties put the House on voter turnout, not on persuasion.
Ms. Loeffler placed almost exclusively negative ads against her opponent, Mr. Warnock, accusing him of being “anti-police” and “radical”. The few ads she has aired that highlight her record start with a warning: “Don’t believe the liberal lies.” Mr. Warnock has not run purely negative ads, preferring less harsh contrast ads than those comparing his health data to yours, and has made a list of positive ads on his life story and platform.
Mr Perdue has also fueled the negative environment. Up until that point, his campaign had run 100 percent negative ads, including those calling his opponent, Mr Ossoff, a “radical liberal” who wanted to bring about “terrible changes”.
Mr Perdue rejected the debate on Mr Ossoff during the trickle run. Speaking at the rally, Mr Perdue said that Republican voters should not focus on politics in this election, an explicit admission that his intervention was aimed solely at members of his own party. He led Mr Ossoff in the first round of elections in November and is betting that a similar coalition will win the runoff election if political strategists believe democratic turnout may wane.
“You don’t have to worry about the problems – you already have,” he said. “We already negotiated this with these other people. What you need to do now is just pray to God that we will cast our vote.”
The plea indicated that even in purple states, moderate politicians – especially right-wing – are a dying race. On key president battlefields, including Georgia, Republican candidates have clung to Mr Trump, betting their futures on his ability to recruit new Conservative voters in rural, predominantly white, areas rather than recapturing the suburban moderators he temporarily turned off.
The Perdue Campaign and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC affiliated with Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, have merged more than $ 3 million in attack reports in the past week alone. One Advertisement from the Senate Leadership Fund, on which the Super-PAC spent $ 1.8 million in just four days, beat up Mr. Ossoff as being committed to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and big corporations.
Phil Hall, a 67-year-old retiree who attended the rally, said he appreciated the Republicans’ willingness to point out that he believed the Democrats were “on the path to socialism and global elitism.”
Mr. Hall loved that Mrs. Loeffler and Mr. Cotton urged Georgia Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to resign because Mr. Hall did not believe Mr. Biden won the state this month.
“Mark my words: there is a handkerchief going on,” said Hall, repeating unsubstantiated allegations of election fraud.
The democratic candidates in Georgia have tried to distinguish themselves as pragmatists in the form of Mr Biden.
Even so, Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff are a long way from the Republican figures their party once nominated in Georgia. With the state’s demographic change and the influx of non-white residents, university-educated whites, and immigrants, Democrats have grown increasingly hopeful that they can win statewide elections by forming a coalition of Atlanta suburbs, black people, and young voters of all races.
On the same day that Republicans gathered in Perry, the Democrats held an election rally in the part of the state that showed the biggest change from the 2016 presidential election to this cycle – the larger suburbs of Atlanta.
The democratic representative Miriam Paris read a statement at the event, in which the political focus of the party became clear.
“We need Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock in the Senate to bring Covid-19 under control, create real economic relief for small businesses and working families, and protect the 1.8 million Georgians in pre-existing conditions,” she said .
The Democratic challengers agree with their Republican counterparts that their election would signal a change in Washington, but they argue that it would be good for the Georgians.
“Change has come to Georgia and change is coming to America,” Ossoff said at the Democratic rally Thursday in Jonesboro, south of Atlanta.
Indeed, the national focus on Georgia offers a window into the future of both political parties. Democrats are trying to maintain their coalition of urban voters and suburbanites to fend off Republican allegations that the party has become too progressive. Neither Mr Ossoff nor Mr Warnock have endorsed proposals such as single-payer health care or the expansion of the Supreme Court, but Republicans are trying to tie them to marginal elements of the Democratic Party.
The Republican Party is at war with itself, fueled by Mr Trump’s refusal to accept the election results.
The campaign by Ms. Loeffler, one of the richest members of Congress, is a powerful example of the changing politics of the country. Formerly thought of as a business-minded Republican who stayed away from cultural issues, she has transformed into a Mr. Trump-style culture warrior.
When she competes against Mr. Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, trying to become the state’s first black Senator, her strategy stood out for her racial and policing tone.
One Loeffler ad shows a classroom with mostly white students reciting the promise of loyalty as narrators: “This is America. But will it still be like this when the radical left controls the Senate? “
Another ad features a now famous Clip by Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., former pastor of former President Barack Obama, delivered a sermon on the nation’s past repression of racial minorities that included the phrase “Goddamn America.”
In the past, Mr. Warnock has suggested that the sermon be in accordance with the “black church truth-clarifying tradition.” Ms. Loeffler’s ad said that Mr. Warnock “celebrated anti-American hatred” and repeated the clip of Mr. Wright’s sermon twice in 30 seconds.
She also mentioned Mr. Wright during her speech at the rally. Within 45 seconds, Mrs. Loeffler tied Mr. Warnock to Mr. Wright; Fidel Castro, the former Cuban leader; Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia; George Soros, the Liberal Megadonor; Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Senate minority; and Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the progressive champion – a baddie hit for conservatives.
“You can get on the cocktail party racetrack if you follow the line,” said Ms. Loeffler. “If you’re a liberal, you can be very popular in Washington. I have no interest in being popular in Washington. My only concern is Georgia.”
Above the runoff elections stand up the relentless attempts by Trump and other Republicans to enforce unsubstantiated claims of election fraud and undermine trust in the electoral system. Conservatives have targeted anyone who recognizes Mr. Trump’s loss in Georgia, including Mr. Raffensperger, the Secretary of State.
Dave Adcock, a 70-year-old Republican at the Perry event, said the only way he could trust the Senate race results was if Mr. Raffensperger resigned and referred to him as a RINO or a Republican just in his name, who “botched” this whole damn thing. “
A moment later, he complained about the deterioration in political discourse and politeness.
“Over the years, I hate being insulted,” Adcock said.
Astead W. Herndon reported from Perry, Georgia, and Nick Corasaniti from New York.