The Georgia Senate runoffs concluding Tuesday aren’t just the new year’s most-watched pollical battle, they are also among the priciest. Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have raised astonishing amounts of money–more than $100 million each, while Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have also raised huge sums, albeit less ($58 million). That’s not counting the outside money being spent in the state by PACs and the political parties. These shocking figures seem to be par for the course in major Senate races these days. But the real question will be what difference all that money makes. New polls from All In Together show that in the ultra-tight Georgia race, some voters, particularly suburban women, remain persuadable and the ads and mail pieces they receive may be making a difference.
Money is critical to Senate races across the country, but as the recent cycle has proven, huge amounts of outside cash doesn’t always translate into a win. Take the 2020 South Carolina Senate race between Jaime Harrison and Lindsey Graham. While Harrison massively outspent Graham, the spending on ad buys didn’t pay off. Graham won decisively despite being outspent significantly. South Carolina is a solidly Republican state and Republicans gained ground in 2020 up and down the ballot. All the money in the world couldn’t transform the orientation of the politics there. There simply weren’t enough persuadable voters.
Georgia is a different ball game. AIT / Emerson College/ Lake Research polls show the races nearly tied with the Republican candidates slightly ahead in both races. Women are evenly split in both races: 50 percent say they voted for or plan to vote for Ossoff, while 49 percent side with Perdue; 50 percent say they voted for or plan to vote for Loeffler, while 49 percent side with Warnock. Men are slightly more likely to say they will vote for or already have voted for the Republican candidates: 53 percent choose Perdue to 47 percent for Ossoff; 53 percent choose Loeffler to 47 percent for Warnock. Given the closeness of these contests, suburban women are a battleground and are closely split in both races. Independent voters lean toward the Democratic candidates in both races.
These polls and others reflect just how closely divided Georgia is and how critical women will be to the win. Democratic groups, most notably led by Stacey Abrams, have been working feverishly to register and turn out new young voters, Black voters, especially in Metro Atlanta and the Democratic base. While Joe Biden won the presidential race in the state and record turnout is predicted again for the runoff, it will be incredibly close and likely will come down to which way suburban women swing. All In Together polling sheds light on what might make a difference, particularly for the Democratic candidates. It turns out the relentless ads and mail pieces being sent particularly by the Democratic candidates are having an effect on those critical swing voters. They are paying close attention and understand that this election will determine which party controls the Senate; 87 percent of women say it is very important to them personally to vote in this Senate election. This is true among both Democratic (87 percent) and Republican (89 percent) women.
Importantly, and here’s where the money really matters, nearly three-in-ten (29 percent) women say the ads or mail pieces they have seen about the Senate races have influenced their vote choice. Among the women voters who say they’ve been influenced, a solid majority (70 percent) are influenced to vote for the Democratic candidates.
Given these polls, it’s not hard to understand why money matters so much in this race. The candidates will need to swing suburban voters to win, and every dollar spent counts to help achieve that. Clearly, there’s much to say about campaign finance reform when two Senate races alone cost half a billion dollars. But for now, with control of the Senate and the balance of power at stake, every dollar counts.