Anti-Trump 'Biden Republicans' backing Kelly Loeffler, David Perdue in Georgia Senate runoffs

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WOODSTOCK, Ga. — Kevin Broughton, a former tea party activist and self-described “right-winger,” made personal history by casting his ballot for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in his life.

But he said there’s no way he will back the two Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, in next week’s runoff Senate elections in Georgia.

His support for President-elect Joseph R. Biden was a statement about President Trump, the conservative movement and the state of the Republican Party. But there’s too much at stake to back the two Democrats in the Senate race, he said, citing, among other issues, his belief in Second Amendment gun rights.

“These aren’t your typical old-style conservative southern Democrats,” he said. “I mean, these guys are pretty far left — even for the Democratic Party. So, no I don’t have any interest in electing them or any more like them into positions of power.”

That attitude is a daunting reality for Democrats who watched Mr. Biden ride a wave of energized liberals, disgruntled Trump voters and anti-Trump Republicans to win Georgia in November.

GOP operatives said Mr. Warnock and Mr. Ossoff will struggle to duplicate that as they try to unseat incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

“It was evident that there were people for whatever reason who did not like Donald Trump, who voted for Joe Biden, but pretty much all the way down the rest of the ballot they voted Republican,” said former state House Majority Leader Jerry Keen.

Mr. Biden received nearly 100,000 more votes than Mr. Ossoff in the Nov. 3 election, becoming the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential race since then-Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas in 1992.

Mr. Perdue received 88,000 more votes than Mr. Ossoff but narrowly failed to clear the 50% threshold needed for an outright win, triggering the runoff.

“You are not going to change 88,000 people’s minds who would have to say, ‘Well, gee whiz, I voted for Perdue but now I’m going to vote for Ossoff,’” said Mr. Keen, a Republican. “I don’t know what you say or say to get them to go back and switch that vote.

“In fact, in a runoff, I’d say that never happens.”

The other race was a 19-person, free-for-all. Mr. Warnock came out on top, with two Republicans, Ms. Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins, bruising each other.

Ms. Loeffler came in second, but since nobody won 50%, she and Mr. Warnock are in the runoff.

Republicans currently hold a 50-48 edge over the Democratic caucus. Should Democrats win both seats, they would claim control of the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

Early voting for the Jan. 5 runoffs has been underway for several weeks, and nearly 1.7 million ballots have been banked.

Democrats say there are positive signs in the early numbers.

They point to nearly 50,000 ballots from people voting in the runoff who didn’t cast ballots in November and said they appear to skew Democratic.

Party leaders also are hoping they will get a boost from Mr. Trump’s civil war with Republican leaders in Georgia and calls to boycott the election from fuming Trump backers who argue — despite the findings of courts, election officials and fact-checking organizations — that the presidential election was “stolen.”

But it’s hard to find Republican voters who plan on sitting out the runoff.

GOP leaders say if anything, they’re seeing the opposite: Voters who may have been lukewarm about voting for Mr. Trump are gung-ho about voting for Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler, given the stakes of the races.

Exiting an early voting polling place, Keith Lunsford, 47, said he voted straight Republican in November and joked he would have backed “Satan” over a Democrat in the runoffs.

“I really don’t care because socialism is such a big picture problem that nothing else really matters to me,” said Mr. Lunsford, a real estate professional. “They have an opportunity to get the Senate, and we have a chance to block that, and that is a huge deal.”

Mr. Lunsford said he is suspicious about the results of the November election, “but I am still here voting.”

For Mr. Broughton, his vote for Mr. Biden was enough protest.

“I think Donald Trump is fundamentally a bad human being with no respect for our institutions, and I think we see him tearing down institutions on his way out,” he said.

“Too many people came to see conservatism as conflating it with just support of Donald Trump no matter what Donald Trump did. I’m still a conservative, I still have the same principles,” he said. “So yeah, I voted for Joe Biden, and then a straight Republican ticket in November, and just today I went and voted early in the runoff for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.”

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