Forecasting the Elections of January 6

It’s been known for a good while that the Senate race in Georgia could well fail to produce the required majority winner, producing a rare January 6 runoff (separate from a December 6 runoff for state offices, which is when the governor’s race could be decided). But other than a general assumption that Republicans have an advantage in low-turnout “special” elections, there really hasn’t been a whole lot of serious discussion of what might happen in such a runoff–until Josh Katz’s piece for The Upshot in an update of its Senate forecasting model:

One approach would be to look at previous runoffs in Georgia, an approach that doesn’t give much comfort to the Nunn campaign. Georgia has had five previous statewide runoff elections. There were two in both 1992 and 2008 — each time for senator and for public service commissioner — and one in 2006 for public service commissioner. In all five of those elections, the Democrat lost.

You could make the argument, of course, that in 1992 Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler was an overconfident incumbent who had spent a lot of time alienating swing voters and that in 2008, Democrat Jim Martin was an underfinanced and little-known challenger to Sen. Saxby Chambliss who barely made the runoff on the strength of the Obama surge in African-American voters. And control of the Senate wasn’t a factor in either race.

If it is this time, all bets could be off as we’d see the mother of all mobilization efforts on both sides.

In the end Katz throws his hands up:

With so many variables working to dilute and degrade the data we would use to forecast a January runoff, we think it’s not unreasonable to treat the runoff forecast with zero information, and assign each candidate an even chance.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.