U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ falling short in the U.S. Senate race on Tuesday, Nov. 3, surprised at least one avid political watcher.
“I thought he would have gotten a lot more votes, particularly with his becoming nationally prominent via his service on the House Judiciary Committee stoutly defending President Trump during the impeachment drama,” said Douglas Young, University of North Georgia political science professor, on Wednesday, Nov. 4.
“He has become a really, very popular, well-respected Republican nationally, and Sen. (Kelly) Loeffler had never been elected to any post,” Young said. “And (Collins) has a long, distinguished career in public service, going back to his days in the (Georgia) legislature.”
After a hard-fought campaign, marked with he and Loeffler trading sharp barbs, Collins finished third in the 21-candidate race. Loeffler and Democrat Raphael Warnock were the top two vote getters, advancing to a Jan. 5 runoff, as neither was able to get the 50% plus one threshold needed in order to win outright.
With 4.8 million votes counted by Thursday morning, Collins had 20% of the vote, compared to Warnock’s 33% and Loeffler’s 26%, the Secretary of State's elections results show.
Collins, who could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, conceded late Tuesday through Twitter, saying, "I just called @KLoeffler and congratulated her on making the runoff. She has my support and endorsement. I look forward to all Republicans coming together. Raphael Warnock would be a disaster for Georgia and America.”
Loeffler “is the very heavy favorite to win the runoff,” Young said. “I don’t know she could have beaten Collins in a runoff, or it would have been much, much tougher.”
With Collins’ endorsement of Loeffler, “most of the Collins supporters are going to vote for her,” he added. “I can’t imagine too many voting for Warnock. He is so far to the left of Collins and Loeffler.”
University of Georgia political scientist Charles Bullock said he believes the bitterly personal tone of their attacks could make it difficult for supporters of the Republican rivals to unite in time for the January runoff.
For Loeffler, "her challenge would be to simply get Republicans back behind her," Bullock said. "That's a real risk."
Democrats haven't won a Senate race in Georgia in two decades. But ongoing population growth around Atlanta and shifting demographics have helped fuel hope among Democrats that the state is in play.
And the battle between Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff remained too close to call Wednesday evening.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.