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Georgia is a purple state, but don’t expect centrist politicians

PERRY, Georgia – Republican Senate candidates in Georgia are spending tens of millions of dollars on an almost entirely negative publicity campaign, adopting a strategy to undermine the Conservative base instead of reaching a cross-section of voters in the hope of generate a participation rate sufficient to win two critical votes that will decide control of the Senate.

Indeed, despite the loss of President Trump here, the early days of the campaign in the second round races are very similar to the months before them. Sitting Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have filled the airwaves with scathing attack ads seeking to portray Democrats as radicals fundamentally opposed to the country’s fundamentals and warning that the Democratic grip on the Senate would usher in a wave of socialism.

The two senators haven’t run a single positive ad between them, and two outside groups aren’t backing them either, according to ad tracking company Advertising Analytics. The breathtaking advertising campaigns and demonization of the Liberals reflect the stakes for the Republican Party and its constituents as they attempt to deny Democrats full control of the White House and Congress.

Mr Perdue said at a rally in Perry, Ga. Last week that his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, was a “trust fund socialist who lives off his family’s money making documentary films that no one never watched ”.

And even though he recognized the dark tenor of the breed, he presented himself as a victim of negativity, rather than a participant.

“I don’t know if my mom was alive today that she would even vote for me, with all this negative publicity,” he joked.

At the rally, where the two candidates ran alongside Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Loeffler said Democratic victories “would literally break the fabric of what makes our country the greatest in the world.”

The second round of Senate elections on Jan.5 will determine whether President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. will begin his administration with a unified or divided Congress.

If the two Democratic candidates, Mr. Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, win and get a 50-50 split in the Senate, ties could be broken by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, and many more political options would be on the table. table for Democrats. If Mr Perdue or Ms Loeffler prevails, Republicans could block major legislation.

But it is the way the candidates present themselves that caught the attention of voters and policy makers, with an avalanche of political publicity descending upon the state; The $ 231 million poured so far into television commercials during what will be an approximately two-month second-round campaign has exceeded spending in all of the Senate primary and general elections combined.

There is no race to the center, despite Georgia voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in decades and turning out to be a true battleground state. Republicans, who are the favorites in both races, reproduce most parts of Mr. Trump’s message without him on the ballot. Democrats seek to build on Mr. Biden’s message of pragmatic unity and his electoral formula: a multiracial coalition fueled by urban and suburban areas of the state.

In campaign events and debates, as well as on the airwaves with over 27 different commercials currently airing, candidates run furiously to motivate their own bases instead of keeping voters happy. Both sides bet the house on turnout, not persuasion.

Ms Loeffler ran almost entirely negative advertisements against her opponent, Mr Warnock, accusing him of being “anti-police” and “radical”. The few commercials she has run that showcase her track record begin with a warning: “Don’t believe the liberal lies.” Mr Warnock did not run any purely negative publicity, preferring less contrasting advertisements like those comparing his health care record with his own, and he produced a list of positive advertisements about his life story and his platform.

Mr. Perdue also fueled the negative environment. So far, his campaign has run 100% negative ads, including ones that deal with his opponent, Mr. Ossoff, a “radical liberal” who wants to bring about “horrible change.”

Mr. Perdue refused to debate Mr. Ossoff during the second round. At the rally, Perdue said Republican voters should not focus on the politics of this election, an explicit admission that his outreach was only directed at members of his own party. He led Mr Ossoff in the first round of voting in November and is betting a similar coalition will succeed in the second round, when political strategists believe Democratic turnout could plummet.

“I don’t need you to worry about the problems – you already have,” he says. “We’ve pleaded this with these other guys before. What I need you to do now is just pray to God that we vote. “

The advocacy highlighted how, even in purple states, moderate politicians – especially those on the right – are a dying race. In crucial presidential battlefields, including Georgia, Republican candidates have clung to Mr. Trump, staking their futures on his ability to find new conservative voters in rural, predominantly white areas, rather than reclaiming them. suburban moderates that he sometimes repelled.

The Perdue campaign and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC linked to Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, combined for more than $ 3 million in attack ads in the past week alone. An advertisement from the Senate Leadership Fund, on which the super PAC spent $ 1.8 million in just four days, notes that Mr. Ossoff is simultaneously beholden to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party and big business.

Phil Hall, a 67-year-old retiree who attended the rally, said he appreciated the Republicans’ willingness to call what he believed Democrats were “heading towards socialism and global elitism.”

Mr Hall particularly liked that Ms Loeffler and Mr Cotton urged Georgia Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to step down, as Mr Hall does not believe Mr Biden won the state this month -this.

“Notice my words: there are handkerchiefs in the air,” Mr Hall said, repeating unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud.

The Democratic candidates in Georgia have tried to project themselves as above the fray by presenting themselves as pragmatists in the mold of Mr. Biden.

Yet Mr Warnock and Mr Ossoff are a far cry from the light Republican figures their party once named in Georgia. As the state’s demographics change, with an influx of non-white residents, white college graduates, and immigrants, Democrats have growing hopes that they can win statewide elections by forming a coalition of Atlanta commuters, people of color and young voters of all races. .

On the same day that Republicans gathered in Perry, Democrats hosted an exit-voting event in the part of the state that showed the biggest change between the 2016 presidential election and this cycle – the outer suburbs from Atlanta.

State Representative Miriam Paris, Democrat, read a statement at the event that made clear the party’s political direction.

“We need Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock in the Senate to bring Covid-19 under control, bring real economic relief to small businesses and working families, and protect the 1.8 million Georgians with pre-existing conditions,” said she declared.

Democratic challengers agree with their Republican counterparts that their election would mark a change in Washington, but they argue it would be good for Georgians.

“Change has come to Georgia and change is coming to America,” Ossoff said at the Democrats rally Thursday in Jonesboro, south of Atlanta.

Indeed, the national focus on Georgia offers a window into the future of both political parties. Democrats seek to maintain their coalition of urban voters and commuters, avoiding accusations by Republicans that the party has become too progressive. Neither Mr. Ossoff nor Mr. Warnock have endorsed proposals like single-payer health care or expanding the size of the Supreme Court, but Republicans are trying to tie them to fringe 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 of Ms Loeffler, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, is a vivid example of the country’s political evolution. Once seen as a business-oriented Republican who stayed away from cultural issues, she has evolved into a Mr. Trump-style culture warrior.

As she takes on Mr. Warnock, who is the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and seeks to become the state’s first black senator, her strategy has stood out for her tone on issues of race and from police.

A Loeffler ad shows a class of predominantly white students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as a narrator intones, “This is America. But will it still be if the radical left controls the Senate?

Another ad features a now famous clip of Reverend Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., once pastor to former President Barack Obama, delivering a sermon describing the country’s past oppression of racial minorities which included the phrase “God damn America” “.

In the past, Mr. Warnock has suggested that the sermon fit into the “Black Church tradition of truth”. Ms. Loeffler’s ad says Mr. Warnock “celebrated anti-American hatred” and replay Mr. Wright’s sermon clip twice in 30 seconds.

She also mentioned Mr. Wright during his speech at the rally. Within 45 seconds, Ms. Loeffler linked Mr. Warnock to Mr. Wright; Fidel Castro, the former Cuban leader; Stacey Abrams, former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia; George Soros, the Liberal megadonor; Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader; and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Progressive Champion – one of the biggest hits from villains to Tories.

“You can join the cocktail tour if you stand in line,” Ms. Loeffler said. “If you are a liberal you can be very popular in Washington. I have no interest in being popular in Washington. I’m all about Georgia. “

The relentless attempts by Mr. Trump and other Republicans to make unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud and erode confidence in the electoral system loom in the run-off. The Tories have targeted anyone who recognizes the loss of Mr. Trump in Georgia, including Mr. Raffensperger, the Secretary of State.

Dave Adcock, a 70-year-old Republican at the event in Perry, said the only way he would trust the Senate race results was if Mr. Raffensperger resigned, calling him a RINO, or a Republican from name only, who had “botched the whole damn thing.”

A moment later, he deplored the degradation of political discourse and civility.

“Over the years, I hate that it boils down to insults,” Mr. Adcock said.

Astead W. Herndon reported from Perry, Ga., And Nick Corasaniti of New York.

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