Georgia Senate Runoffs: Jon Ossoff Thanks Voters For Projected Win; Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi And Hillary Clinton Declare Victory In Democratic Control Of Congress — Update

Ted Johnson and Dominic Patten
·21 min read

11TH UPDATE, 7:06 AM PT: It hasn’t been made official yet, but Jon Ossoff has declared victory in his Georgia runoff race to join Rev. Raphael Warnock in the Senate – and top Democrats plus Donald Trump seem to agree.

Ossoff released a video early this morning that was a victory speech with all but the applauding crowd. “Good morning, it is with humility that I thank the people of Georgia for electing me to serve you in the United States Senate,” Ossoff said, as you can see in the video below.

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The two top Democrats in Congress also declared that the party has won control of the Senate.

Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi each released statements celebrating the victories of Warnock and likely Ossoff in Georgia. Networks have projected Warnock as the winner in the state, defeating Kelly Loeffler, but have yet to call the race for Ossoff, though his lead over David Perdue expanded overnight and is expected to widen further in the next couple of hours.

“The runoff victories for Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are a historic achievement that will bring better representation for hardworking Georgians and a Senate majority laser focused on the needs of the American people,” Schumer said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “Buckle up.”

In that vein, the current Senate minority leader wasted no time pushing Mitch McConnell out of the way and declaring himself the new majority leader as the sun rose Wednesday.

“For the first time in six years, Democrats will operate a majority in the United States Senate — and that will be very good for the American people,” the New York Democrat said today, as Congress is set to conduct the formal and contested electoral college vote certification. “As majority leader, President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris will have a partner who is ready, willing and able to help achieve a forward-looking agenda and deliver help and bold change to the American people.”

Pelosi said that “now, because of the courageous leadership of Georgians, America will have a Democratic Senate working hand-in-hand with our Democratic House Majority and President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.”

Hillary Clinton was a bit more biting, tweeting out, simply, “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

Both victories would mean that Democrats would gain control of the Senate. Although the chamber would be split 50-50, Kamala Harris would break a tie as vice president.

Democrats’ control of the Senate could be hugely important in passage of Joe Biden’s agenda and could smooth the way for confirmation of cabinet nominees and judges. McConnell no longer would control which legislation reached the floor. And he and other Republicans would be unable to block any Supreme Court nominees, as the party voted in 2017 to eliminate the filibuster for selections to the high court.

Although Donald Trump again claimed, without proof, that there was election fraud in Georgia’s vote, the apparent Democratic victories were evident as Republicans began to point fingers. Arnold Schwarzenegger retweed Sen. Lindsey Graham’s prediction from 2016, in which Graham wrote, If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed…….and we will deserve it.”

“You were so right, Lindsey,” Schwarzenegger wrote.

Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters on Capitol Hill, “Well, it turns out that telling the voters that the election is rigged is not a great way to turn out your voters.”

Oddly, gearing up to challenge the Electoral College vote certification this morning, Trump himself also appeared to give Ossoff the Peach State win in a tweet that damned the GOP and its toxic relationship with the former Celebrity Apprentice host.

10TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 10:50 PM PT: Raphael Warnock was the projected winner in one of two races for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, putting Democrats closer to securing control of both chambers of Congress.

NBC News projected that Warnock would win the race, the first network to do so. ABC News, CBS News, CNN and the Associated Press called the race for Warnock soon after that.

Jon Ossoff, meanwhile, has overtaken his Republican rival, David Perdue, and now holds a slim lead over the incumbent.

If Ossoff wins, the Senate would be split 50-50, between the parties but Democrats would have the tie breaking vote with Kamala Harris as vice president. That will make it easier for Joe Biden to enact his agenda and to secure confirmation of cabinet and judicial nominees.

Warnock will be the first Black U.S. Senator from Georgia. His victory is an upset, given the conventional wisdom that Republicans would have the edge in the traditionally red state. The last Democrat elected to the Senate from Georgia was Zell Miller in 2000 – and the former governor basically became a Republican in all but name in 2004.

9TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 10:43 PM PT: Jon Ossoff’s campaign manager is confident of victory in his race against Republican David Perdue.

“When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate,” Ellen Foster said in a statement. “The outstanding vote is squarely in the parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant. We look forward to seeing the process through in the coming hours and moving ahead so Jon can start fighting for all Georgians in the U.S. Senate.”

8TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 9:39 PM PT: Raphael Warnock said that he was “going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia,” declaring victory in one of two Senate races in the state.

“We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said in a speech delivered via Zoom-like video stream, forgoing the traditional campaign event because of Covid-19. “May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold to the American Dream.”

Warnock would be the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate from the state.

In his speech, Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, recalled his roots growing up in the housing projects of Savannah, GA to a large family, whose father “was a pastor, a veteran and small businessman, and my mother who as a teenager growing up in Waycross, GA, used to pick someone else’s cotton.”

His Republican rival, Kelly Loeffler, has not conceded the race, and the networks have not yet called the race. But others, including Stacey Abrams, have declared Warnock the victor.

7TH UPDATE, JAN, 5, 9:27 PM PT: Networks have not made a projection in the Georgia runoffs, but Stacey Abrams has seen enough.

She tweeted out congratulations to Raphael Warnock as the winner of his race against Kelly Loeffler.

“Congratulations to our next U.S. Senator, @ReverendWarnock. Last January, I endorsed my dear friend in his quest to serve. Soon, he will walk those august halls & cast votes as a leader with courage, justice and integrity. God bless you and keep you in your service to us all.”

Others already were already weighing in on what went wrong for Republicans.

Josh Holmes, former chief of staff and campaign manager to Mitch McConnell, wrote on Twitter, “Suburbs, my friends, the suburbs. I feel like a one trick pony but here we are again. We went from talking about jobs and the economy to Qanon election conspiracies in 4 short years and – as it turns out- they were listening!”

6TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 8:20 PM PT: A big release of vote results from DeKalb County put Raphael Warnock back in the lead over Kelly Loeffler, while Jon Ossoff cut into David Purdue’s lead.

It wasn’t enough to trigger a network projection, but the news was encouraging to Democrats.

Stacey Abrams tweeted, “With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path. But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared. A few miles to go…but well done!”

Perdue’s lead — over 100,000 earlier in the evening — shrunk to less than 10,000.

“The four biggest bubbles of votes remaining on the map figure to be Democratic,” said MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki as he went through the vote outstanding.

CNN had for a time been down on Democrats’ hopes, but it was based on a report on the expected vote to come out of Dekalb County that turned out to be inaccurate.

5TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 7:48 PM PT: The down to wire Senate runoffs in Georgia have now got Donald Trump singing his “stop the steal” tune as the GOP looks poised to lose control of the upper chamber.

Simultaneously fighting off a New York Times scoop with claims of “fake news” that VP Mike Pence has told him there is no chance to halt Congress’ electoral college certification tomorrow, the former Celebrity Apprentice host is basically predicting a Republican loss in the Peach State:

Trump’s tweet comes as more votes are expected any minute from the Atlanta suburbs, which leans very heavily towards the Democrats. Based on the math of the around 200,000 votes to come, the New York Times‘ election needle is calling out “Pretty Likely Warnock” and “Leaning Ossoff” for the Democratic challengers against incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue with 87% of the vote in.

In that vein, The Economist’s data chief G. Elliot Morris has called it for the Dems, but Twitter slapped a label on the tweet.

No broadcaster nor the AP have made that prediction.

Yet, if Morris is right and if the anticipated trend holds, the twin Democratic wins in the Peach State will have massive implications putting the Senate at a 50-50 seating with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris the deciding vote.

4TH UPDATE, JAN. 5, 7:08 PM PT: The race for control of the Senate has now entered the drill-down phase, as election gurus comb through county-level numbers and examine what vote remains outstanding.

Although Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock trail their Republican rivals David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler, what is missing is the early vote out of Atlanta-area Dekalb County. That is the largest single batch of votes left, and they are expected to be lopsided in favor of the Democrats. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki said that Ossoff and Warnock would have “more than enough” to overtake their rivals, with the caveat that Republicans still have some smaller pools of votes in rural strongholds. Dekalb “is really shaping up to be the ballgame here,” he said.

“We’re waiting on one giant release” of vote results, he said.

On Fox News, Karl Rove told Sean Hannity, “We don’t know how many more votes there are out there.”

With his trademark white board in hand, the former George W. Bush deputy chief of staff laid out several scenarios with faint hopes for Perdue and Loeffler. On the other end of big media, the New York Times’ famed election needle was subtitled “Probably Warnock” and “Leaning Ossoff” with 79% of the vote reported and those Democrat rich Atlanta suburbs still to come.

3RD UPDATE, JAN. 5, 5:37 PM PT: As results came in, Fox News kept to its regularly scheduled primetime opinion hosts, with Tucker Carlson expressing indignation that Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff were in the lead.

Carlson said that while “you could at least imagine having dinner” with Warnock, he couldn’t understand the appeal of Ossoff, who he called “the greasiest little fraud.”

Carlson’s indignation came as there were concerning signs for Republicans in Georgia in the early results. Washington County, with nearly all the votes counted, flipped from the November election to go for Ossoff over Republican David Perdue.

One of Carlson’s guests, Charlie Hurt of The Washington Times, said that the fact that Democrats were leading was “testament to how badly Republicans in Washington have completely lost sight of their voters.” If Republicans lose both races, and that is still a big if, it is perhaps a preview of who will get the blame from rightward media.

Carlson continued to provide updates on the results, but the network is not pre-empting Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity or The Ingraham Angle, the highest rated shows in cable news.

Seeking to clearly fend off guerilla viewership snipping from new-ish conservative media like OAN and NewsMax, Carlson earlier in his show offered up red meat to his audience with “identity” critiques of “runway model” Stacey Abrams and Warnock. The Georgia races were not the sole focus. Carlson also let loose on Senators Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney for their support of diversity policies, and devoted a segment to “Kamala Harris & the Ultimate Virtue Signal.”

MSNBC’s coverage, headlined by some of their opinion hosts including Rachel Maddow and Joy Reid, featured an interview with Abrams.

“I think every time that Donald Trump disparages the millions of Georgia voters who decided that they wanted to participate, it renews their commitment to being a part of the body politic,” Abrams said. “They want to be seen, they want to be heard, and they will be.”

2ND UPDATE, JAN. 5, 4 PM PT: Polls have now closed in Georgia, where the two Senate runoff races will determine who controls the upper chamber and America’s political direction the next few years.

There are many expectations of ever so close races, largely based on Joe Biden’s narrow win in November. But, with socially distanced in-person voting during the coronavirus and record breaking early voting, it also may be difficult to discern who is actually ahead given the sheer number of mail in ballots, which are thought to favor Democrats.

On MSNBC, Steve Kornacki said that they expect an early batch of mail-in ballots to come in from Fulton County, a Democratic stronghold. Other counties, though, plan to count the mail-in vote last.

“Honestly, there is not a ton of rhyme or reason for this,” he said. Even before today, Georgia broke runoff voting records. However, it looks like the overall number will be down from the November general election.

Over on Fox News, Bill Hemmer noted GOP estimates that they would need 62% same-day turnout, or about 1 million voters, to counter Democrats’ advantage in early and mail-in voting. More than 3 million voted early.

Both Biden and Donald Trump visited the state yesterday with the former Celebrity Apprentice host seemingly more interested in listing off his greatest hits of grievances than the Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. A tone and turn that worry many in the GOP as Trump seems to be at war with Gov. Brian Kemp and other state officials who have refused to award Georgia to him, despite his threats and conspiracy theories

Today, Wolf Blitzer went through early figures showing a lead for Democrat challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, but cautioned that the scant numbers were “very, very early.”

Burke County supplied the first votes of the night with Ossoff taking a wide 538 – 147 lead over incumbent Perdue. The results from the small county outside Augusta are most likely mail-in, pundits estimated.

UPDATE, 2:26 PM PT: As Georgians went to the polls on Tuesday, Joe Biden did some interviews in the state, telling one station that if Democrats win both Senate races and control of the chamber “we will be able to get immediately out checks for $2,000 to guys who are really hurting.”

“These other guys don’t seem to understand,” Biden told Kenny Burns on WVEE-FM, an urban music station in Atlanta. “This Covid pandemic and the job loss has been consequential. Thousands of people are lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, wondering is they are going to be thrown out of their apartments and if they have enough food on the table.”

The House last week passed an expansion of direct Covid-19 payments to $2,000, but it stalled in the Senate when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked efforts to bring the resolution to the floor.

Biden once again blasted the Trump administration for its vaccine distribution, saying that the federal government has done “virtually no planning.”

Biden said that if Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win, “the vice president of the United States will essentially become the majority leader of the United States Senate,” as Kamala Harris would get the tie-breaking vote.

Meanwhile, a federal judge denied the Trump team’s latest effort to decertify the results in Georgia, which Biden won. Trump had filed suit against the governor of the state, Brian Kemp, and its secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger. The lawsuit was the latest of dozens of defeats in court for Trump, who has nevertheless vowed to press on with unfounded claims that the election was stolen from him.

He plans to address a protest rally on Wednesday morning at the Ellipse near the White House, just hours before a joint session of Congress meets to officially count the Electoral College vote and certify the race for Biden and Harris. Dozens of Republicans say that they plan to vote against the Biden-Harris electors, siding with Trump, but that likely will not change the outcome.

“To interfere with the result of an election that has already concluded and has been audited and certified on multiple occasions would be unprecedented and harm the public in countless ways,” the judge, Mark Cohen, wrote in his ruling.

PREVIOUSLY, 12:13 PM: “Y’all get out and vote, get out and vote, get out and vote,” said Tyler Perry today as Georgia went to the polls to decide exactly who the Peach State’s two Senators will be.

The big money dual runoffs could see challengers Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock unseat GOP incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and hand control of the upper chamber to the Democrats for the first time in a decade. With incoming Vice President Kamala Harris as the deciding vote in a 50-50 deadlocked Senate, that push Mitch McConnell and crew out of power and make Joe Biden’s agenda much closer to a legislative reality.

Building on the voter turnout that saw Biden turn Red state Georgia blue for the first time since 1992, record breaking advanced voting in the runoffs has already topped 3 million. However, as the Madea creator discovered, not everyone received the absentee ballot they requested. Taking advice from Stacey Abrams, Perry jumped on a plane and flew back home to Georgia on Monday to cast his vote in person:

This morning, the producer and studio chief marked his ballot in what seemed to be a fairly quick process:

A significant portion of the Georgia film/TV industry unto himself, Perry isn’t the only Hollywood heavyweight banking on the Democrats pulling off a double victory.

“This is the ballgame, almost as much Biden and Kamala taking the White House from Trump,” one prominent producer with deep political connections and pockets told Deadline Tuesday. “I’m anxious, but I think, I hope, turnout is in our favor.”

Georgia’s Senate Showdown: ‘All In’ Filmmakers See Tight Races As Showbiz Steps Up To Try To Secure Democratic Control – Q&A

More than one power player told us today that they are saying prayers to see Ossoff and Warnock over the finish line in what is expected to be a long night in the close races. One day before an almost unprecedented contest of the electoral college certification by Congress, some took their hopes and faith to social media:

“My sense is there’s a lot of fatalistic enthusiasm, …energy and hope for Warnock and Ossoff, but a general consensus that they’ll be edged by big Republican turnout today,” says Damon Lindelof. “Personally, I predict both Dems win, but it will be sooooo close we can expect lots of drama before that’s ‘official,’” the Watchmen bossman and long time Dems contributor added.

Like they did in the general election, Hollywood has poured considerable sums into the Georgia runoffs. Through this cycle, Ossoff has raised about $1.6 million from showbiz sources, and Warnock has collected about $1.3 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics. Total spending on local TV and radio was a staggering $504.8 million, according to research firm Medium Buying.

Broadcast networks are planning to break into programming with updates on the races, and ABC News is planning a primetime special at 10:30 p.m. ET on the results. On the cable news networks, the runoffs will play like a mini-November, with some of the same teams of anchors, analysts and voting gurus.

CNN, Fox News and MSNBC have been reporting throughout the day from the Peachtree state, with coverage kicking off in earnest in the mid afternoon. CNN’s coverage will feature Dana Bash, Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, John King and Abby Phillip, and Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon picking up coverage at midnight. Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum will headline Election Day live coverage in Atlanta, with Bill Hemmer breaking down the numbers and Shannon Bream reporting from Washington, D.C., with Chris Wallace, Brit Hume, Dana Perino and Juan Williams providing analysis. Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams will anchor coverage on MSNBC, with Nicolle Wallace and Joy Reid providing analysis and Steve Kornacki back at the Big Board. Ali Velshi will pick up overnight.

We’ll be watching the race today too and providing updates throughout. Stay tuned.

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