Georgia Senate runoff debate

By Melissa Macaya

Updated 0346 GMT (1146 HKT) December 7, 2020
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6:34 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Loeffler and Warnock will face off soon in Georgia Senate debate ahead of crucial runoff election

From CNN's Clare Foran

Sen. Kelly Loeffler reacts to her supporters during an Election Night party at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta In Buckhead on November 3, in Atlanta.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler reacts to her supporters during an Election Night party at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta In Buckhead on November 3, in Atlanta. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and her Democratic opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock are set to face off in a debate tonight at 7 p.m. ET ahead of a pivotal runoff election next month.

An intense national spotlight is focused on the race and the stakes are high since its outcome, along with the result of a second Georgia runoff in January between GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, will determine control of the Senate in the new Congress.

If either Republican incumbent holds onto their seat, the GOP will be poised to maintain its Senate majority. But if both Democrats win, it would bring the balance of power to 50-50 in the upper chamber with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris able to step in and cast tie breaking votes.

The two Senate races advanced to a January runoff after none of the candidates cleared a 50% vote threshold in November to win outright.

The Senate races have been overshadowed at times by Georgia's presidential election results, where President-elect Joe Biden turned the state blue for the first time in 28 years. Trump has blamelessly alleged voter fraud in the state and attacked statewide officials including Republicans Gov. Brian Kemp and secretary of state Brad Raffensperger.

On Saturday night: Trump stumped for Loeffler and Perdue at a Valdosta, Georgia, rally, but once again falsely claimed he won the state and warned without evidence that the runoffs in January could be rigged. CNN has previously reported that Republicans were concerned that Trump could depress turnout among his base if he continued to rail against Georgia's election system.

At one point, Trump welcomed Loeffler and Perdue to the stage for very brief remarks at the rally, but both senators were immediately interrupted with chants of "Stop the Steal" and "Fight for Trump."

Read more here.

6:27 p.m. ET, December 6, 2020

Here's why all eyes are on Georgia's Senate race

From CNN's Caroline Kelly, Jason Morris, Ethan Cohen and Tori Apodaca

Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks to the crowd during an outdoor drive-in rally on December 5, in Conyers, Georgia.
Senate candidate Jon Ossoff speaks to the crowd during an outdoor drive-in rally on December 5, in Conyers, Georgia. Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

The focus of the political world has increasingly turned to what's happening in Georgia for one key reason: the Jan. 5 runoff election will decide which party controls the Senate.

If either of the incumbent Republicans — Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue — hold onto their seats, the party will retain its majority control in the chamber.

If Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both prevail, however, Democrats would gain control of the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' tie-breaking vote.

Loeffler and her Democratic challenger Warnock are set to debate tonight. Perdue declined an invitation to debate Ossoff.

Trump traveled to the Peach State on Saturday to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue. Former President Barack Obama meanwhile is prominently featured in a new television ad for Ossoff, pitching him as an injustice-fighting crusader who will pass a new Voting Rights Act and "listen to the experts" in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 940,000 mail-in ballots have been requested in Georgia for the runoff election. Georgia voters are required to request absentee ballots again for the runoff, even if they voted absentee in November, except those over the age of 65, members of the military or physically disabled people who requested absentee ballots for the entire election cycle.

Republicans are struggling to encourage voters to back incumbent Kelly and Perdue as Trump continues to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election.