Democrats’ sputtering hopes of reclaiming the Senate are on the edge of getting a boost, as Senator David Perdue, the Republican incumbent in Georgia, could be forced into a runoff with his Democratic challenger if his vote share remains below 50 percent once the state’s final votes are counted.
As of Thursday afternoon, with 97 percent of the votes counted, Mr. Perdue had 49.9 percent of the vote against Jon Ossoff, who had 47.7 percent. Under Georgia law, if Mr. Perdue finishes below 50 percent, he’ll face Mr. Ossoff in a one-on-one vote in January.
The Ossoff campaign said Thursday that the race was on track to require a runoff. “We are confident that Jon Ossoff’s historic performance in Georgia has forced Senator David Perdue to continue defending his indefensible record of unemployment, disease, and corruption,” Mr. Ossoff’s campaign manager, Ellen Foster, said in a statement.
Mr. Perdue’s campaign manager, Ben Fry, said in a statement that if “overtime is required when all of the votes have been counted, we’re ready, and we will win.”
There will already be one runoff election in Georgia: Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, will face the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat.
On Wednesday, Mr. Warnock shared a pre-emptive video parodying the attacks he expects Ms. Loeffler to launch against him. The video claims Dr. Warnock hates puppies and eats pizza with a fork and knife. “Get ready Georgia, the negative ads are coming,” Mr. Warnock said.
If Democrats were able to win both seats, and if Joseph R. Biden Jr. wins the presidency, they would have the 50 senators needed to usher through judicial and cabinet appointments, and enact a Democratic agenda. If Republicans maintain control, they could exert their power to block the priorities of a Biden administration.
If President Trump prevails, the Democrats would need to achieve the enormously difficult feat of winning both Georgia seats and the North Carolina seat held by Senator Thom Tillis, who is nearly two percentage points ahead of his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, with 94 percent of the votes tallied. The extra seat would be required because the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote in the Senate. Mr. Tillis has already declared victory.
Though Democrats flipped Republican-held seats in Colorado and Arizona, they lost one in Alabama and failed to capture seats in several other states in which they invested enormous sums of money.
But a second Georgia runoff would extend their hopes through January, and focus the nation’s attention squarely on the Peach State.