Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler appears to have been handed her walking papers by Georgia voters, who put Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock in her seat and Democrats one person closer to controlling the Senate.
But even with the vast majority of the votes tallied, it's not clear whether fellow Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue fended off his challenger. As midnight eastern came and went Tuesday, Perdue remained in a tie with Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff with 97 percent of the vote counted.
If both Democratic candidates win, the next Senate will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, meaning incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will have the tie-breaking vote in favor of the Democrats. If either Democrat loses, the Senate remains in Republican control.
Beyond control of the Senate, the race is also a political culture test to determine whether continued loyalty to President Donald Trump is necessary for Republicans to win their own elections as Trump clings to wild, disproven conspiracy theories that his election loss was due to widescale fraud. Perdue and Loeffler have been reluctant to publicly acknowledge that Trump lost the election while Trump rallied on their behalf (well, sort of).
Election night was exciting: As of 10 p.m. Tuesday evening, Loeffler and Perdue were both leading, but the vote was close and major networks and media outlets had not called the races. Initial tallies had both Democrats in the lead, but those were predominately absentee ballots. As with the November election, Democratic voters had been urged to mail in their ballots.
But as the night went on and incumbents picked up votes and took the lead, there was no surge putting either of them inescapably ahead. With 88 percent of the vote counted at about 10:45 p.m., Loeffler was ahead of Warnock by just 80,000 votes, and Perdue was ahead of Ossoff by 120,000 votes. Even though Loeffler was slightly ahead, Dave Wasserman, U.S. House editor of the Cook Political Report concluded that she had lost to Warnock. Other outlets, like The New York Times and its election needle, predicted that Warnock was very likely going to win.
The logic for calling against the Republicans even though they were ahead was because at that time, only 42 percent of DeKalb County's votes had been counted. DeKalb is a Democratic stronghold that contains part of the City of Atlanta and ranks fourth in the state in population. As of 11 p.m., election officials in DeKalb county indicated they had more than 171,000 votes to report out.
Trump responded to the delay in DeKalb County results by suggesting there was fraud afoot:
Looks like they are setting up a big "voter dump" against the Republican candidates. Waiting to see how many votes they need?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 6, 2021
Once the DeKalb votes started coming in at 11:30 p.m., the shift was immediate. Warnock pulled ahead of Loeffler by 20,000 votes while Ossoff pulled within 20,000 votes of Perdue with 96 percent of the vote counted. Then within minutes, more votes came in for Ossoff and the two men were put in a virtual tie. As of 11:45 p.m., less than 500 votes separate the Perdue and Ossoff. Warnock, meanwhile, extended his lead over Loeffler to 30,000 votes.
Neither race has actually been "called" by major media outlets, but most of the remaining uncounted votes are in areas with significant Democratic populations.