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Published on April 27, 2021 3:04 AM

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With U.S. Senate at stake, Black voters loom large for Democratic candidates in Georgia
ATLANTA (Reuters) - With hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into twin Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections to determine control of the U.S. Senate, Democrats and a constellation of allies are waging an all-out campaign to mobilize as many Black voters as possible.

The success of their efforts - targeted advertising, virtual events and even door-to-door canvassing despite the coronavirus pandemic - will likely decide the outcome, analysts said.

"High Black voter turnout is essential to a Democratic victory," said Andra Gillespie, a professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "If their turnout rate is lower than it is for other groups ... that'll help dig a hole that Democrats won't be able to dig out of."

If either or both Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, win, their party would retain a Senate majority – and the power to thwart Democratic President-elect Joe Biden's legislative agenda on everything from the economy to climate change and race relations.

Even as Biden was scoring a surprise victory over President Donald Trump in Georgia in the Nov. 3 election, Perdue finished ahead of Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, falling just short of the 50% needed to avoid a runoff. The Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, a historic Black church, and Loeffler led a large multi-candidate field in the other race.

In outperforming Trump, Perdue benefited from Republican-leaning voters who disliked Trump but were not willing to vote for down-ballot Democrats.

"Those are going to be difficult voters for Democrats to win over," Terrance Woodbury, a pollster, said. "They're very likely voters, and very unlikely to vote for Democrats."