In what might be their only debate before Georgia’s January 5 dual runoff elections, incumbent Republican senator Kelly Loeffler and challenger Raphael Warnock faced off on Sunday night — though perhaps Loeffler could have just run a campaign ad.
Loeffler clearly had one central mission: to let people know that she thinks Warnock is a “radical liberal.” She repeated the phrase in programmatic fashion more than a dozen times throughout the debate.
The message is a central theme of her campaign, which, often in misleading fashion, casts Warnock as a Jeremiah Wright–loving socialist who is out of step with Georgia voters. As in her primary, Loeffler has not tried to move to the middle during this campaign, instead tying herself closely to President Trump and casting herself as a bulwark against leftist ideology. In keeping with that strategy, Loeffler also wouldn’t admit that Trump actually lost the presidential election, continuing her strategy of tying herself to the president’s quixotic efforts to overturn the results in Georgia and around the country, even as state officials, under fire from conspiracy-minded conservatives, plead with Trump (and Loeffler and fellow Senator David Perdue, who didn’t show up to his debate on Sunday) to accept reality.
For his part, Warnock attacked Loeffler for having been appointed, rather than elected, to the Senate, and for her stock trades that drew scrutiny at the beginning of the COVID pandemic.