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How the attack ads in Georgia’s Senate runoff races are shaping up

Races between Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) and Jon Ossoff (D) as well as Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) and the Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) will be decided on Jan. 5. (Video: The Washington Post)

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Whichever party wins both Georgia Senate runoff races will have done so because it successfully motivated more of its voters to come to the polls again in January. And that means doubling down on partisan attacks against the other side.

Both Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and their respective Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, are going for the jugular right now. Here are some trends about how they attack each other in these two runoff elections that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Republicans are trying to frame the Democrats as socialists

Republicans aren’t just arguing that Ossoff and Warnock might support socialist policies but that they are straight-up socialists.

Perdue refers to Ossoff as a “socialist,” without evidence, in his communications to reporters. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) recently falsely accused Warnock of hosting Cuba’s then-leader Fidel Castro at his church when Warnock was a youth pastor decades ago. (PolitiFact says there’s no evidence Warnock played a role in that invitation.)

Republicans are aggressively trying to seize on anything short of a clear denunciation by Ossoff and Warnock of left-leaning ideas to wield the “s” word.

Both Democratic candidates say they’re more in line with President-elect Joe Biden’s policies than those of any other Democrat. Neither Democratic candidate embraces policies such as the Green New Deal or Medicare-for-all or defunding police, but Ossoff has explicitly said he doesn’t support these policies, while Warnock more indirectly brushes off the attacks by saying Republicans are “trying to divide us again, and it’s really sad.” So Loeffler claimed at a recent campaign event that Warnock “has a Marxist ideology.”

Republicans are heavily using “defund the police”

This ad from Loeffler says he “wants to make your neighborhoods less safe. … Raphael Warnock is too extreme for Georgia.”

It’s similar to other, successful GOP attack ads in Senate races in red states that tied Democratic candidates to the most extreme factions of the Black Lives Matter movement. And when combined with another ad trying to tie Warnock to former controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright (the same pastor that Republicans used against Barack Obama), the message from Loeffler amounts to: Warnock supports radical Black elements in America.

Warnock tried to make light of these attacks by releasing a preemptive, sarcastic “Raphael Warnock even hates puppies” video, which you’ll see Loeffler threw right back at him in the ad, above.

As for Ossoff, Perdue is intently trying to pin him to “defund the police,” claiming that a comment Ossoff made in June saying police funding needed to be “on the line” meets the description. It’s a loose affiliation, and Ossoff says he doesn’t support such a policy.

Democrats are trying to cast the Republicans as corrupt

Remember at the beginning of this pandemic, when some senators got briefed on it and then made related stock trades? Loeffler was one of those. Her husband is CEO of the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, and she is one of the richest members of Congress. They sold nearly $19 million in stock around the time the pandemic was hitting America, even though publicly, Loeffler was championing the economy and President Trump’s handling of it.

Loeffler defended her stock trades as legal, saying they were done by an investment firm. The Justice Department looked into whether this amounted to illegal, insider trading but closed the investigation shortly afterward. Perdue, a wealthy former businessman, also traded stocks around the same time, though to a lesser extent than Loeffler. He said an independent adviser made those decisions.

Nearly nine months later, Democrats still see strength in talking about these trades. They especially think it helps contrasts Loeffler and her wealth — she campaigns with a private jet — with Warnock’s upbringing in public housing. Georgia Democrats have a new ad that uses Republican attacks against Loeffler to make their case.

Democrats are trying to accuse Republicans of taking away health care

Democrats think they got such a strong showing in November’s elections — Ossoff received more votes than any other statewide Democratic candidate — largely because they talked consistently about trying to strengthen Americans’ health-care coverage in a pandemic.

And they believe they have a clean contrast here with their Republican opponents. Both Perdue and Loeffler have supported GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (although Loeffler wasn’t in the Senate yet for those votes).

It’s worth noting, though, that this month, the Democratic Party campaigned on health care in congressional campaigns across the country. It didn’t work for Democrats in red-leaning districts, in the face of louder “socialism” and “defund-the-police” attacks.

Democrats are trying to frame Republicans as extreme, too

Ossoff recently told Axios on HBO that his opponent, Perdue, “embodies Trumpism in a nutshell.”

And Warnock has repeatedly noted that Loeffler has campaigned with Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has made racist comments and supports the QAnon conspiracy theory. “She gleefully accepts the endorsement of a candidate who traffics in the QAnon conspiracy theory that is rife with hatred and bigotry,” Warnock has said. “It is shameful.”

It’s Democrats’ way of trying to turn the “radical” tables right back onto Republicans and wield Trump as a weapon. It might be especially potent, given that Georgia just voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since 1992.