By Stump Connolly

          I get emails, as I suspect you do, sometimes 20, 30 or 40 a day, from Republicans and Democrats, asking me to send money to Georgia to support one candidate or another in what they say will be the most consequential election in history – or at least this month.

          Most of the emails promise that my meager contribution of ten dollars will be matched 200, or 300, or 400 percent by a generous donor (i.e. PAC) concerned about the fate of the nation. In this way, the campaigns of Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue (the incumbent Republicans) and Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (the Democratic challengers) are waging a war to win two seats in the Senate that will determine whether President-elect Biden is working with a Republican or Democratic majority there.

          All told, the candidates are expected to spend $500 million on the campaign, nearly half from Super PACs, and over 90 percent from outside the state. Most of the money is going to TV ads that now blanket the state. We have a Republican commercial where Loeffler and Price toss a football around with NFL great Herschel Walker, a Heisman trophy winner at the University of Georgia, and a Democratic ad where Warnock appears with a cute puppy to counteract Loeffler’s claim the pastor of Martin Luther’s church in Atlanta is a “radical liberal.”

          As the November election showed, Georgia is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, with clear lines of demarcation between whites and blacks, urban and rural voters. In a traditionally Republican state, Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992. So Republicans should have an edge in the runoff, but Stacey Abrams’ success turning out rural Black voter gives the Democrats a fighting chance. As a result, the special election has become a chance to re-fight the last one, with outside PACs supplying the ammo.

          CNN caught up with John Jones, a political operative who doesn’t live in Georgia, driving a billboard truck around Atlanta promoting the Democrats. Jones runs something called the Relations PAC that raised over $100,000 for the campaign. He says setting it up was easy. “All it takes is a couple hours of paperwork and a lawyer. Put a corporation between yourself and the FEC and you’re a Super PAC.”

          “Personally, I don’t think PAC money should exist this way,” he told CNN. “It’s kind of a shame that there can be so much money, dark money, in our politics. But these are the rules we were given and this is the playing field that we’re on.”

          It’s really kind of silly having so much money floating around in two races where the battle lines have been drawn for months. The Ossoff-Perdue and Warnock-Loeffler races are both stand-offs – polls show the candidates are less than a percentage point apart – and more TV ads are just as likely to turn fatigued voters off as drive them to the polls.

          The outside PAC money is pouring into Georgia because of the pivotal role this election holds in control of the Senate. But the blizzard of political ads on the airwaves, defining the race in slick 30 and 60-second messaging (mostly negative), obscures real issues that should be top of mind for Georgia voters.

          Ossoff, for instance, skewered his opponent in their first debate with a devastating attack on Perdue’s service to Georgia. The attack was so devastating Perdue cancelled all future debates to hide behind his TV ads. Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate only a year ago, did take the stage against Warnock, but did herself no favors with a consultant-scripted attack on socialism and “the radical liberal Rev. Warnock.” So she too is flooding the airwaves with ads.

          All four candidates, and the citizens of Georgia, would have benefited from more discussion about how the state will fare under a Biden administration, but Donald Trump’s insistence on making the race a rehash of his “stolen” election made that impossible. So the muddle in Georgia will not reflect what’s on the minds of the voters. It will just feed the us vs. them mentality Trump has injected into the body politic.

          So please do Georgia, and the country, a favor. Don’t send any of them any money.


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