The other Democratic Senate candidate, Rev. Raphael Warnock, made his own bet. He had walked through the case without facing many attacks as the Republicans fought among themselves, but the black preacher turned politician could foresee attacks that portrayed him as radical. At the end of October, two weeks before these attacks began, and before he even knew the identity of his GOP opponent, Warnock prepared a humanizing television commercial to deflect the attacks. It featured a barking beagle and a narrator vacillating that the Democrat “hates puppies”.
Both bets paid off in full two months later when Warnock and Ossoff mobilized massive turnout among black voters and other dependable Democratic groups, winning enough white suburbanites to switch both seats in the Georgia Senate this week, putting the Democrats in control the Senate had a tight margin – a 50:50 Senate with elected Vice President Kamala Harris to cast the vote.
Without the quick tactical changes after a disappointing November for Democrats, it likely wouldn’t have been possible when the party lost Senate races in states like Maine and North Carolina, which were supposed to be more mature targets. But Ossoff and Warnock saw a surge in counties and counties with high black populations, while President Donald Trump’s base didn’t match the November turnout.
This account of how the Democrats managed to win two races that were once considered the unlikely long shots is based on interviews with a dozen activists and strategists who participated in both competitions. Many of them spoke of strategy and reasoning on condition of anonymity.
Warnock was faced with a spate of attacks by appointed GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler and Republican outgroups immediately after the stabbing campaign began. Most of the early ads focused directly on his sermons, accusing him of being an anti-police, anti-military “radical” and sending a host of other hits from the pulpit in his own words. An ad was placed showing police bodycam footage of an incident involving Warnock and his wife.
Warnock’s campaign responded in some ads. Most of his messages, however, remained positive and focused on his childhood living in housing projects, his beliefs and his position in the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church here. An aide from Warnock summed up the strategy as “Remain Reverend” and did not let his own message deter him.
“We had to win this fight for him as a moral figure, at least for the people who would ever be willing to vote for us,” said a Warnock aide.
It pursued a broader democratic strategy of focusing on mobilizing its base with more positive news, including an emphasis on the need for additional Covid-19 relief funds.
“We tested a lot of messages that were more negative and fear-based,” said Christie Roberts, a senior adviser to the Senatorial Democratic Campaigning Committee, who decamped with communications director Lauren Passalacqua to Georgia to aid the campaign effort.
“‘They don’t want you to vote. They don’t count on you to vote. Trump is trying to keep you from voting,'” Roberts said, giving examples of the negative attacks they had been considering. “And then we tested messages like” You have the power to make change. Your voice could cause change … “It was the positive that mobilized our base far more.”
Change of strategy
As the campaigns absorbed Republican attacks, they also launched a large coordinated field program and abandoned the party’s moratorium on knocking on the door, a crucial tool for Democrats suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Jonae Wartel, the Georgia drainage director who came on board in early November to run the coordinated campaign, said in an interview that it was a “gigantic task” to set up an operation so quickly, although it was immediately clear they had a robust voter-outreach program need.
“That was a bit of a departure from the general election, where much of the work was remote-controlled,” said Wartel. “We had to scale extremely quickly.”
The coordinated campaign ultimately resulted in 25 million voter contact attempts with more than 40,000 dedicated volunteers. They knocked on a million doors in the last four days of the race.
“Nobody went around who didn’t know there was a runoff election,” said Wartel.
Ossoff himself played an unusually important role in steering his campaign’s strategy – from digital operations to floor play – and at the start of the runoff, expressed a desire to focus heavily on increasing voter turnout among African American people, according to the talks
Running as a ticket with Warnock, who will only be the 11th black Senator in history, would greatly improve black voter turnout. However, the Ossoff campaign led to additional own outreach efforts in the rural Black Belt counties, where African American participation was high. Ossoff ran a television commercial in which black voters talked about the importance of their vote. Several ads were shown in Warnock’s campaign highlighting his bus tour to remote corners of the state.
Much of that foundation in the state had already been laid by Democrat Stacey Abrams, who launched an unprecedented voter registration effort after losing the state’s gubernatorial race to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018. Groups like the New Georgia Project and Fair Fight had worked for years to register new voters, lay the groundwork for the 2020 elections, and drive the black Georgians to vote.
The Ossoff campaign quickly hired a team of 30 people for a voter registration team to build on in the early days of the runoff before joining the field program after the December 7 registration deadline, according to a senior election official. Ultimately, a campaign that originally had 25 employees grew to 200, with no more than 2,000 community organizers hired for on-site public relations. They even created an app that these organizers can use to sync their contacts and call those who haven’t voted yet.
Two prominent Democratic advisers, Cornell Belcher and Karen Finney, conducted a comprehensive poll of rare black voters. The poll was paid for by the Senatorial Democratic Campaigns Committee and shared with both campaigns at the start of the runoff to lay the groundwork for the mobilization effort People familiar with the effort.
The campaigns also conducted in-depth polls of Asian and Latin American voters, according to those familiar with the matter who knew they needed a high turnout and strong profit margins from various constituencies that had helped deliver the state for Biden in November .
“All along, Jon Ossoff has had a deep and persistent belief that the only way to defeat an incumbent incumbent like Perdue is by lifting the voices of Georgians, especially Black Georgians and young people, and out of all the moments of pain and hope to build a movement. ” said Joshua Karp, a senior advisor to the campaign.
Remarkably, more than 100,000 people who voted in the runoff did not vote in the November election – and the vast majority of them cast their votes for Ossoff and Warnock along the lines of the Democrats. Earlier, the Georgia Democrats saw key events in 2020 – such as the death of Rep. John Lewis and the assassination of Ahmaud Arbery – as driving moments for black voters, whose proportion of Georgia voters was already higher than that all other battlefield state.
An avalanche for television advertising
Ossoff made his previous work for Lewis the central theme of his campaign. According to an Ossoff adviser, he called Lewis in August 2019 to seek his Senate approval and announced his campaign two weeks later with Lewis’ support, a pivotal boost in multi-candidate elementary school. During the first week of last December, Ossoff went to Selma, Alabama to film a Television advertisement on the historic Edmund Pettus Bridgeciting Lewis’ history as a civil rights activist and calling for a new civil rights law. The ad aired on television during the first week of early voting later that month.
TV spending in the runoff soared, and more than $ 500 million was spent on advertising. But even before November, both parties invested heavily. While Warnock was unaffected in the fall, GOP outgroups were spending $ 45 million on the Ossoff race prior to November, according to AdImpact. Majority Forward, a democratic nonprofit, went on television in July, weeks after Ossoff won his elementary school. AdImpact said Senate Majority PAC, the Democrats’ leading external group, along with affiliated nonprofits, invested more than $ 40 million prior to November to attack ads against Perdue.
“It was honestly just better than many places on the map for Democratic candidates, and we had to make it a priority,” said J.B. Poersch, the president of SMP. “It was a risk that was worth it for us.”
While the Democrats were planning the runoff, the Republicans also shifted their focus. The candidates and GOP groups relentlessly attacked the Democrats as socialists who would empower the most liberal Democrats like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) To adopt her agenda.
Gabriel Sterling, the state electoral systems implementation manager and a Conservative Republican who has struggled against Trump’s false claims of electoral fraud, said Wednesday that the large number of new voters “was evidence of the hard work that was done when Republicans were I’m busy attacking the governor and my boss, ”referring to Brad Raffensberger, Secretary of State for Kemp and Georgia.
Indeed, Republicans in Georgia and Washington blamed the Trump-fueled struggles for their double losses in Georgia, particularly while Ossoff and Warnock were busy unifying their coalition. With Perdue and Loeffler refusing to acknowledge that Trump lost the election, it complicated the argument as to how victories for Ossoff and Warnock would give Democrats full control of the presidency and Congress. And Trump’s false attacks on the elections, combined with his last-minute Twitter criticism of Senate GOP leaders, have turned their final arguments on their head.
The Democrats didn’t have long to fully celebrate, given the chaos the day after their election when violent pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol. But some employees had time to get involved. On Tuesday night, before the race was scheduled, but after it was clear Warnock would win, Motown legend Stevie Wonder joined the Warnock campaign staff at Zoom to congratulate them and celebrate the win.