Republicans show signs of division ahead of Senate runoff races

With 56 days remaining before the critical elections, the fact that Georgia Republican officials are taking aim at each other may not bode well.
Image: Democratic Candidates In Georgia Campaign Ahead Of November's Election
Lawn signs for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock at a campaign event on Oct. 3, 2020 in Lithonia, Ga.Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images file

Control of the U.S. Senate next year will likely come down to two races in one state: on Jan. 5, Georgians will vote in two Senate runoff elections, and if Democrats win both, they'll effectively have a Senate majority working alongside a Democratic House and a Democratic White House.

That's no easy task. Georgia has earned a reputation as a "red" state -- it has a Republican governor and a general assembly with sizable GOP majorities -- but Joe Biden's current lead in Georgia has fueled Democratic hopes about the runoff elections.

It's against this backdrop that serious divisions are emerging among Georgia Republicans, including incumbent Republican Sens. David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler, who issued an odd statement yesterday accusing Georgia's Republican secretary of state of "mismanaging" the 2020 elections. They even called on him to resign.

As NBC News reported, that apparently isn't going to happen.

Brad Raffensperger, Georgia's Republican secretary of state, sharply criticized two the state's two Republican senators on Monday after the lawmakers called on him to resign, citing his "failures," without citing evidence, of his management of the election. "The voters of Georgia hired me, and the voters will be the one to fire me," Raffensperger said in response to GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

It's important to emphasize that the joint statement from Perdue and Loeffler, calling for Raffensperger's resignation, was devoid of any substance. As MSNBC's Chris Hayes joked, the senators seemed to berate their own state's Republican election administrator "because Democrats did too well," which isn't how any of this is supposed to work.

But with not-quite two months remaining before the critical elections, the fact that Georgia Republican officials are taking aim at each other may not bode well.

Do Jon Ossoff (D) and Raphael Warnock (D) really have a chance in their respective races? I suspect few political forecasters would see either of them as the favorites, but it isn't too far-fetched to see the contests as competitive.

Biden appears to have done very well in the state this year; Donald Trump won't be on the ballot on Jan. 5; GOP officials are clashing with one another; Dems have Stacey Abrams' political operation in their favor; and even in the special election, the top two Republicans -- Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins -- finished with roughly 46% support last week, which is noticeably short of 50%.

The election is 56 days away. Watch this space.

Update: According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it was Trump who pressed the GOP incumbents to call for Raffensperger's resignation.