DUNWOODY, Ga. — Sen. David Perdue has been warning television viewers across Georgia that a vote for his Democratic rival Jon Ossoff is a vote against the police, the military and private health insurance.
The attack ad is running so often that it is not unusual for viewers to be able to catch it twice during a single commercial break, underscoring how saturated the airwaves have been since the Senate runoff races kicked off weeks ago.
“One thing that political science literature says that campaign advertising is good at is driving up interest in campaigns and turnout and so far that is what we are seeing,” said Jeff Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “We have unprecedented levels of campaign spending on the one hand and the early turnout numbers are huge.”
“We are set to have the highest turnout in runoff history in Georgia — if not the country,” he said. “I don’t think those two things are consequences.”
Democrats can flip control of the Senate by winning both seats, while Republicans can hold their majority by winning one of the races.
The stakes are high, given the results will determine the level of opposition President-elect Joseph R. Biden faces in the Senate when he takes over next month.
Mr. Biden gave Democrats hope after scoring a narrow-12,000 vote victory over President Trump in the state in November, making him the first Democrat since 1992 to accomplish the feat.
“We need you to get out there and vote for Jon Ossoff as well as Raphael Warnock,” Mr. Biden said in a recent ad. “We need them in the Senate.”
The latest tally from the nonpartisan Georgia Votes website shows that more than 1.8 million people have cast early ballots in the races.
The total spending from the campaigns, political parties and outside groups on television advertisements during the runoff races has eclipsed $450 million, according to AdImpact, an election ad tracking firm.
It is not unusual for the ads to take up an entire commercial break.
Outside groups have invested more than $100 million in ads in the Perdue-Ossoff race, and roughly an identical amount in Loeffler-Warnock showdown, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Seeking to balance out their billionaire backgrounds, the Republicans have invested in projecting folksy images.
Mr. Perdue’s ads show him strolling through a field in a denim jacket, while Ms. Loeffler‘s spots show her leaning atop a fence in a plaid shirt and jeans, and chatting with kids.
Pushing back against angry Black man stereotypes, Mr. Warnock can be seen sporting a knit sweater in one ad and in another walking his tiny dog in a well-manicured neighborhood.
Mr. Ossoff, meanwhile, is presenting a clean-cut look, offering himself up as a policy-wise technocrat and pushing back against attempts to cast him as an empty suit.
Mr. Perdue cautions voters that Mr. Ossoff would side with Democrats such as Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.
“With Jon Ossoff they get total control, we get police defunded, illegal immigrants voting, your private health insurance taken away, military gutted,” Mr. Perdue says in an ad. “Is that really what you want? Only you can stop it. We win Georgia, we save America.”
Mr. Ossoff targeted Mr. Perdue’s stock deals and panned his response to the coronavirus.
“He could have prepared us,” a Black female bus driver says in an Ossoff ad. “Instead he was buying stock, and when we needed his help he fought against stimulus checks and to cut our unemployment insurance. Instead, he was just lining his own pockets.”
The 30-second ad features a clip of the Democrat saying in 2018 that Israel shot down “unarmed Palestinian sisters and brothers like birds of prey” and saying that “Palestinian lives matter.”
Other attack ads tie Mr. Warnock to Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who became a controversial figure during former President Obama’s first candidacy.
Mr. Warnock‘s alternative narrative draws a contrast with Ms. Loeffler by warning that she wants to eliminate health care coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and supports tax breaks for corporations and the wealthy.
“She is the richest member of Congress. He grew up in public housing,” a narrator says in a Warnock ad. “She got rich on big corporations that avoid paying taxes. He spent his life in service to the community and Georgia. … Kelly is for Kelly. Warnock is for us.”
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