Podcast: Who will win Georgia’s Senate races?
Biden’s presidency hinges on this crucial vote – and it’s too close to call.
On 5 January, a special Senate run-off election in the ‘Deep South’ state of Georgia will determine the future of Biden’s presidency. Will the new president be able to pass badly needed COVID relief; take action on climate change, racial justice and much more?
The voters of Georgia will decide the crucial power balance in the US Senate – and right now, the polls are neck and neck.
Ahead of the vote, we’ve been talking to friends, family, political experts and regular people across the state. They’ve told us how record-breaking sums of cash are piling into Georgia; of fierce battles over voter suppression, corruption and dirty tricks – and of how millions of Black, Brown and younger voters are mobilising in this historic race.
We’ve spoken with the trailblazing Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project about how grassroots organisations like hers have registered millions of new voters. Investigative journalist Greg Palast has told us about how he uncovered documents showing widespread voter suppression.
We’ve heard from Republican lawyers fighting court battles over the November election results; from elusive ‘swing voters’ – and from citizens just struggling to survive.
As we’ve been discovering, the story of Georgia is both a story of what’s deeply broken in American politics – and of how dramatic change is possible, fast.
This episode was produced by Freddie Stuart. Special thanks to Penny Dale
Stacey Abrams: We have been protesting in the streets, because we needed to diagnose the ills that still consume our country. Voting is the medicine. Voting is how we start to treat our ills. Because we got to remember voting isn't magic. And we got to stop saying it like it is. We've got to remind folks that voting is like taking that pill you don't want, taking that walk, you know, your doctor told you to take. That we've got to treat our ills, not just diagnose them. And we do that at the ballot box. And we're gonna do it this year in Georgia.
Mary Fitzgerald: November’s election felt like the most important choice facing US voters in decades. Die-hard Trump loyalists may continue denying it; but Joe Biden was elected president by the largest number of votes in US history.
Joe Biden: I pledged to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify, who doesn't see red states and blue states, only sees the United States.
Mary Fitzgerald: But in early January, in the Deep South state of Georgia, another election will determine what direction the country is really headed in now.
TODAY: This morning Georgia is the battlefield in the fight for control of the US Senate. Both Senate races there are headed for January runoffs. Democrats need candidates Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock to win their races against incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Two democratic wins in Georgia would set the senate at 50/50, with Democrats in control and Kamala Harris casting the tie breaking vote.
Mary Fitzgerald: As President Obama and President Trump have made clear in recent weeks, the stakes couldn’t be higher.
Barack Obama:The special election in Georgia is going to determine ultimately, the course of the Biden presidency. And whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can deliver legislatively, all the commitments they've made.
Donald Trump: At stake in this election is control of the US Senate. And that really means control of this country. The voters of Georgia will determine which party runs every committee, writes every piece of legislation, controls every single taxpayer dollar. Very simply, you will decide whether your children will grow up in a socialist country or whether they will grow up in a free country.
Mary Fitzgerald: Already, record-breaking amounts of money are being piled in.
CBS News: In the past two weeks, more than $125 million poured into the races. Much of the campaign fundraising is coming from outside of the state. Atlanta ad costs are now soaring, in some places going higher than they were in the presidential race.
Mary Fitzgerald: And Georgia’s race is on a knife-edge.
I’m Mary Fitzgerald, editor in chief of openDemocracy. Last time you heard from me, I was reporting from the midwestern ‘swing states’ during the dramatic weeks of the November election.
Now, I’m getting ready to go back to Atlanta, Georgia – the city I was born in back in the early 1980s – to try and figure out which way this crucial race will tip on January 5th.
Ahead of that, I’ve been talking to friends, family, political experts, volunteers and regular people across the state of Georgia. As I’ve been discovering, the story of Georgia is both a story of what’s deeply broken in American politics – and of how dramatic change is possible, fast.
[Jerrell Jordan, Everybody Vote Stacey Abrams]
Mary Fitzgerald: Having grown up mainly in London and reporting all over the world as an adult, I’ve always thought of Georgia as a deeply conservative place. Republicans have held nearly total state-wide power here for almost two decades.
Culture wars over issues such as abortion have loomed large: my mother, facing an unplanned pregnancy with me back in 1982, had access to more family planning services and options than I would if I found myself in a similar situation today.
And yet, things have also been changing
11Alive: I'm Cheryl Preheim in the 11A live newsroom with breaking news. NBC News is now calling President-elect Joe Biden, the apparent winner in Georgia and its 16 electoral votes. It is only the third time in more than five decades that a Democrat or Independent has won the state, which has been solidly Republican since 1972.
Mary Fitzgerald: Biden’s historic win, say organisers on the ground, wasn’t a fluke, it was the result of decades of groundwork.
Nse Ufot: My name is Nse Ufot and I am the CEO of the New Georgia Project. We are a nonpartisan civic engagement organization. We're probably best known for our large scale voter registration efforts. To date, we've helped nearly half a million Georgians of color and young Georgians register to vote in all 159 of Georgia’s counties.
We leverage data data analysis. We build our own apps, we build video games that are designed to expand the electorate. I would say that the work of The New Georgia project is a continuation of the long history of civil rights, human rights and voting rights organizing, that comes out of the deep south.
For people who employ a very shallow analysis of American politics. You know, they divide us into red states and blue states. And people have essentially written off the entire south, particularly the Deep South like Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, as red states that are firmly in the control of conservative republican hands, in the hands of a pale male stale minority that has had an outsized influence on our politics for quite some time. But if you peel back the layers just a little bit, you will see that elections have been determined by one, who shows up, and two, whose votes get counted.
Mary Fitzgerald: But, at the same time, there’s been powerful opposition to efforts like the New Georgia Project. It’s resonant of abuses of power which have been going on for generations.
Journalist Greg Palast has been investigating voter suppression in Georgia since 2014.
Greg Palast: So Georgia understand is the microcosm and the most intense place where there's both the most severe vote suppression and also the most activated – there's no other state which has more voting rights organizations and voting activists than in Georgia, because that is the home Martin Luther King Jr., it is the birthplace and still the center of our civil rights and voting rights movement.
I start in 2014. I get from inside the Office of the Secretary of State. Secretary of state is a special position in America, which you don't have in most other countries. That's the person in charge of voting. And weirdly, it's always a real partisan, political party hack. And I get this inside document, a secret list of hundreds of thousands of names of people they want to eliminate from the voter rolls.
So I shoot down and I happen to encounter at the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin Luther King preached, there was the head of the Democrats in the Georgia legislature, a woman named Stacey Abrams. And she was holding a press conference, she was already livid because she had registered – dig this, and this is in 2014, it's very important to understand this – she was complaining that over 50,000 people had been registered by one of her organizations called New Georgia Project. She submitted the forms. And they never put these people on the voter rolls, a secretary of state named Brian Kemp, this is a Republican and he wouldn't put them on the voter rolls. He's said, oh, we have to check their addresses. We have to confirm them. And they're gonna miss the big Senate race. Now, this is the last Senate race since 2014, six years ago.
And so they basically were winning the election by literally refusing to put these registered voters on the registration form, so they can't vote. So she was complaining. I said, can I speak to you, miss Abrams? And I showed her the purge lists, which were even a bigger problem, but it was being completely hidden. She was stunned. She was shocked. She was sickened by it. She said what is our secretary of state doing? Trying to eliminate like half a million voters from the voter rolls
Mary Fitzgerald: Four years later, guess what?
Greg Palast: Then, ironically, or maybe because the way it was set up, Brian Kemp, and Stacey Abrams – so the guy who was blocking the voters and the woman trying to save the voters – ended up running against each other four years later for governor of the state.
Stacey Abrams: This is our moment, our chance to lift up Georgia. And if we fight, if we push, if we work, we will win.
CNN: That was Stacey Abrams, making history becoming America's first African American woman to be nominated for governor. The Democrat is now preparing for a fierce battle in November in the deep red state of Georgia.
Mary Fitzgerald: In the end, Stacey Abrams fell short by only 55,000 votes: the closest a Democrat has come to winning statewide office in a generation.
But that was far from the end of the story.
Stacey Abrams: As I have for more than 25 years, I will stand with my fellow Georgians in pursuit of fairness. You see, I did so as a college student speaking in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. at the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington, I did so as Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, and as the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia. And now I will do so as a private citizen. Ready to continue to defend those whose choices were denied full expression.
Today I announce the launch of Fair Fight Georgia, an operation that will pursue accountability in Georgia's elections and integrity in the process of maintaining our voting rolls. In the coming days, we will be filing a major federal lawsuit against the state of Georgia for the gross mismanagement of this election and to protect future elections from unconstitutional actions. We will channel the work of the past several weeks into a strong legal demand for reform of our election systems in Georgia.
Mary Fitzgerald: Stacey Abrams, Fair Fight Georgia, the New Georgia Project and countless other organising operations have helped to dramatically increase turnout in the last few years. So now, looking ahead to the January 5th crucial Senate race: who are the candidates on offer to Georgia’s voters this time?
On the Republican side you first of all have the incumbent Senator David Perdue, who won his seat in 2014.
David Perdue: I never wanted to be in politics. But six years ago, our economy was a mess. I thought my background turning around Reebok and Dollar General might help, you agree. We built the greatest economic turnaround in US history, record jobs, then came COVID. We’ll beat this virus, get our lives back to normal and come back even stronger. America always does. I'm David Perdue, and I approve this message.
Mary Fitzgerald: The other incumbent Republican, Kelly Loeffler, is one of the wealthiest members of Congress, with an estimated net worth of half a billion dollars.
Loeffler Ad: Rated America's most conservative US Senator. And like our president, Kelly is ready to take on the status quo. The politically correct and in the special interest, a 100% Trump voting record.
She has been so supportive of me and the agenda, a good person, a good woman, great
job Kelly. Endorsed by the National Right to Life. And Kelly Loeffler I appreciate very much. Thank you. I'm Kelly Loeffler, I approve this message.
Mary Fitzgerald: And what about their Democratic challengers?
Andra Gillespie is a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. She’s been on the airwaves pretty much non-stop during the last few months, and here she is talking us through the Democratic candidates.
Andra Gillespie: The Democrats have two relatively novice candidates running for this election. So Jon Ossoff, was better known he ran unsuccessfully to replace Tom Price in the Georgia sixth congressional district in 2017.
Jon Ossoff: Thank you very much, everybody. A few moments ago, my friends, I called Secretary Handel, I commended her on a hard fought race, and on her victory this evening.
Andra Gillespie: And basically what we saw Ossoff do was mobilize what seemed like every potential democratic vote in the district at that time, he just fell slightly short.
Mary Fitzgerald: The other Democrat is Reverend Raphael Warnock.
Andra Gillespie: Warnock sort of brings a different cachet to the table. So he's the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is Martin Luther King's home church.
Reverend Raphael Warnock: Something special and transformational is happening right here in Georgia. The people, everyday people, ordinary people, are rising up and they are demanding change. They've had about enough of Washington politicians who move so seamlessly between Washington back rooms and corporate boardrooms. And it's hard to tell one from the other. Well, I think the ultra wealthy and the well connected have enough representatives in Washington. Ordinary people want somebody who's ready to stand up for them.
Andra Gillespie: He wasn't well known everywhere. He's from Savannah, so he's able to take advantage of being from another part of the state. And then, you know, has been able to use his cachet of being pastor of Ebenezer to, you know, at least help to build his name identification.
Mary Fitzgerald: Both races have seen a range of vicious attack ads. Democrat Jon Ossoff has targeted ads against the Repubican David Perdue over allegations of insider trading:
Ossoff Ad: I'm Jon ossoff. and I approve this message.
Senator David Perdue profited from the pandemic while he downplayed the risk, undermined doctors and scientists, compared Coronavirus to the common flu. Now, even in the middle of this pandemic, David Perdue is trying to let insurance companies deny coverage to people with pre existing conditions like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. David Perdue out for himself, not for our health.
Mary Fitzgerald: David Perdue’s campaign has faced criticism for platforming antisemtic images of Ossoff:
The Damage Report: Down in Georgia a Republican ad has had to be pulled after it was found to be using photo manipulation to advance an anti-semitic message. Take a look at this ad supporting Republican David Perdue saying: breaking Schumer spending $3 million in Georgia for Jon Ossoff. So you have Chuck Schumer, obviously minority leader in the Senate there and then the candidate Jon Ossoff, or at least most of the candidate because that's not actually all of him. Take a look at this photo from 2017, which they used. They took him and they artificially made his nose larger.
Mary Fitzgerald: Meanwhile Kelly Loeffler’s campaign has been accused of running racist, fear mongering ads against Reverend Warnock.
Loeffler Ad: This is America. But will it still be if the radical left controls the Senate? Raphael Warnock called police thugs, gangsters, posted a rally for communist dictator Fidel Castro and praised Marxism in speeches and writings. Raphael Warnock will give the radicals total control. Saving the Senate is about saving America from that. I’m Kelly Loeffler, I approve this message.
Mary Fitzgerald: In this intensive battle, ads are blanketed across the airwaves, calls and campaign text messages are an hourly part of Georgia life right now. This is what happened when I was speaking to Andra Gillespie, the political science professor.
Oh, is that one?
Andra Gillespie: Maybe, hold on. Hello. Hello. May I ask who’s calling? I'm gonna vote. So thank you for calling. Don't worry, I'm not going to forget. I'm not going to disclose my vote, but don't worry, I'm not going to neglect my vote. Thanks so much, I actually have to go, I'm actually in the middle of a call. Thanks. Bye, bye.
And as annoying as these are, empirically, they're actually very important. We know that if you get a personal reminder to vote, it's going to increase a person's likelihood of turning out to vote.
Mary Fitzgerald: So what issues are affecting people’s voting decisions? I reached out to friends, family and colleagues, who helped me track down people like Elissa: a former military translator, living on the outskirts of Atlanta. She now works in a high-end furniture store downtown, and she told me what’s at stake for her.
Elissa: There's a lot of people who are in dire need of employment insurance and people are being evicted from their homes for falling behind on rent and mortgage payments. You know, it's a lot of the things that you might hear about from the politicians. But it happens on a very real level.
My partner has been out of work for about a year now. And has been constantly trying to find jobs. With the likes of Mitch McConnell, in control of the Senate, you know, it's hard to pass any kind of relief, any kind of comprehensive plan to really deal with this pandemic, which has affected so many. It's been a failure of leadership that has trickled all the way down to the state and local levels.
Mary FItzgerald: I also spoke with UNITE Here!, a labour union that represents more than 300,000 workers across North America. They connected me with Wanda Brown, a hospitality worker who’s been organizing to bring out the vote in Georgia:
Wanda Brown: I've been furloughed ever since March, which a lot of hospitality workers have been – a lot of my coworkers are out of work and still out of work. I found out in November that I would lose my health insurance. So it's been really rough for me the last nine months.
What am I going to do to pay my mortgage? So you know, we need that extra $600 we need a stimulus package that's going to stimulate this economy. You know, I have pre existing conditions. I have high blood pressure. You know, it's important for me to get my medication. So we don't need our senators to be in bed with the pharmaceutical companies. I hope, and I pray that Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win this race, just so that we can get some relief for working class people
Mary Fitzgerald: Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project, who you heard from earlier, told us what their ten months of polling revealed, state-wide.
Nse Ufot: We know that the number one issue for Georgia voters in this particular moment is COVID. And the failed response of our current elected officials to protect us. What we've learned is that women voters see COVID through the healthcare lens, how to keep ourselves safe, or how to keep your family safe. And it's COVID for men as well, but it is COVID as an economic issue.
So we're talking about hundreds of thousands of Georgians who are on the verge of losing their homes when the eviction moratorium ends, we're talking about 400,000 Georgians who will be losing state unemployment benefits, when that money runs out. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of Georgians who have received $1,200 in emergency relief from the federal government. And have had to make that $1,200 last for nine months.
We're at the point now, where more Americans die every day than all the people who died in 9/11. And so when people are evaluating candidates, that's what they're listening for. And we work to highlight the candidates positions on all of these issues that matter to Georgians.
Mary Fitzgerald: With the polls neck and neck and record turnout expected, it’s impossible to say who will win on 5 January.
What are so-called swing voters thinking? Well, it turns out my cousin is one of them. We’re the same age; she’s a schoolteacher based in Atlanta. We haven’t spoken about politics in years, and I always thought of her as quite conservative. But she told me she’s voted Republican, Democrat and Libertarian in her time.
Cousin: I tend not to identify with a party. In the past, yes, I have voted probably for more conservative candidates, not necessarily strictly republican or strictly democratic. I think probably my two main issues are gun control, common sense gun laws, and women's rights. Both of the Republican candidates do not support gun control laws and are both pro life.
We shouldn't have to fear sending our children to school. That's not acceptable. My child shouldn't have to go to school and practice active shooter drills. It's absolutely terrible. That a four-year-old has to practice being quiet and hiding under a table, that is just not okay. Like I said, if you want to have a gun, that's fine. But you can have a gun in a reasonable and responsible way.
Mary Fitzgerald: She made no bones about being fed up with the current Republican Party.
Cousin: The pandering from the people in the Republican Party is what really just led to me being completely fed up with all of them. And I voted almost strictly democratic, almost out of spite. This time around, because I was just so sick of the lying, the fear mongering, the science denying all of it, just I said this is absurd. How have we gotten to this point, I can't continue to support these people. I might agree with some of their political views. But as a whole, I cannot condone what this party is doing.
Mary Fitzgerald: In a regular election, potential swing voters like my cousin would be useful indicators of which way a tight race is likely to go, but organisers on both sides say this run-off race isn’t about winning swing voters. It’s about doubling down on the base.
And in a contest like this, Republicans are usually better placed to win: even though Biden has just turned the state blue. Professor Andra Gillespie explains why:
Andra Gillespie: Republicans have historically benefited from runoff elections because turnout goes down because people forget, and the types of people who are more likely to turn out to vote are regular voters, they tend to be older. And in Georgia, older voters are whiter and more likely to be Republican. To the extent that that advantage still exists in the state, we can look at the exit polls and see that the Republican candidates fared better among older voters on 3 November, so there may be a slight advantage there. I just don't think that the advantage is as extensive as it was in 2008, for instance, the last time that there was a runoff election,
Mary Fitzgerald: When I tracked down Republican organisers, they were cautiously confident of their numbers and their ground game.
Alex Kaufman: First of all, we are a Republican state. Every single one of our constitution officers are Republicans from the Attorney General, the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, the Agriculture Commissioner, everyone.
Mary Fitzgerald: That’s Alex Kaufman, general counsel of the Fulton County Republican Party.
Alex Kaufman: This is a Republican state and has been for almost twenty years. We believe these people will come back, our voters will come back. The importance of this race is just too much. And I think if you talk to an average Georgian on the street, they're surprised that anyone would actually consider us to be a Democratic state and I have full confidence that Senator Loeffler and Senator Perdue will be elected in January. They're very organized, they've been raising money. They have a record that's proven, and they have a good reputation in this state.
Mary Fitzgerald: But here’s the curveball; Alex and many others have been involved in the court cases that Trump has filed in Georgia, to challenge the result of the November election. And that issue has caused big rifts amongst many Republicans. One Georgia state official and lifelong Republican, Gabriel Sterling, summed up just how deep these divisions are:
Gabriel Sterling: It has all gone too far. All of it. Joe DiGenova today asked for Chris Krebs, a patriot who ran CISA, to be shot. A 20-something tech in Gwinnett County today has death threats and a noose put out saying he should be hung for treason, because he was transferring a report on batches from an EMS to a county computer so we could read it. It has to stop. Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up. And if you're gonna take a position of leadership show some.
Mary FItzgerald: True to form, Donald Trump has turned on the Georgia Republicans who dared to defy his efforts to challenge the election result.
11Alive: And Trump lashes out at Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Governor Brian Kemp during a live interview on Fox News about the election results in Georgia.
Donald Trump: Electoral officials making deals like this character in Georgia who’s a disaster. And the Governor's done nothing, he's done absolutely nothing. I'm ashamed that I endorsed him.
11Alive: We have reached out to the offices of Kemp and Raffensperger for a response. Last week, Kemp said he continues to stand with the president and that he will continue to follow the law.
CBS News: Some of President Trump's supporters are calling for a boycott of Georgia's Senate runoff races. They include prominent attorneys like Sidney Powell, that's President Trump's former attorney, according to Politico. Now, Mr. Trump's claims of election fraud may be the driving force behind this. Now some Republicans are concerned the President's, “demonization of Georgia's electoral system” may cost them the Senate.
Mary Fitzgerald: Are Republican divisions really going to affect turnout? Greg Palast, who’s been watching Georgia politics for years, is certain that – whatever their differences – Republicans will still turn out in full force on January 5th.
Greg Palast: The people who are saying, telling republicans don't vote. Those are outsiders. I mean, almost everyone I've heard: Roger Stones, the Proud Boys, all the crazies that we've filmed. They're from out of state, they don't live there.
Georgia Republicans understand what's on the line, and they will vote. In fact, the white evangelicals, which make up about 40% of their electorate – if you've ever been to one of these Georgia super churches, mega churches with 3,000 screaming people listening to praising the Lord with hard rock, ministers they're ripping a good riff on a electric guitar, you gotta go to these places, they're amazing. They will vote. They go to the polls like zombies. I mean, it's like ‘The Walking Dead’, you know, no matter what, you can chop off an arm, they'll go.
Mary Fitzgerald: So if the Republicans expect a big turn out, how are Democrat organizers feeling about their ground game?
Another cousin of mine, Dylan, is a progessive organizer who’s now working just outside Atlanta.
Dylan: Atlanta is so heavily blue, and then it's the rural parts of the state that are red. So we're canvassing outside of Atlanta in a suburb called Gwinnett. And basically, almost everybody in the entire neighborhood is going to vote for the Democrats, if they're going to vote. And that's the question. It's not a question of whether or not people are supportive of the Democrats or the Republicans like that was more the question in Arizona. Here, it's like people are really supportive, and are they going to vote?
And what I have found so inspiring is so many of the people that we're talking to are gonna vote and are so well educated about this election. And I really feel like that is about the incredible work of organizations like Fair Fight and New Georgia Project on the ground like Mijente, who have been doing this long term work of building up the people in Georgia to be able to even flip blue in the first place for Biden in November.
Fair Fight, New Georgia Project registered 800,000 people between 2016 and 2020. I mean, in 2016 of the eligible voting population, 20% of the population was unregistered. And in 2020, it was 2%. We have the honor of getting to come into Georgia to really just support the work that's already being done on the ground.These organizations, mostly led by black women have just done this amazing job. So we're out there talking to people on the doors who are like, Oh, yeah, absolutely. I'm going to be voting for Ossoff and Warnock.
Before coming to Georgia, I was really nervous about this election, and being like, oh, it doesn't look good for the Democrats, you know, like, can we really eke out a win here. And, you know, I do think it's going to be close. But being here, I'm so much more confident that it's possible.
Mary Fitzgerald: Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project is also convinced that turnout will be far higher than the last Senate runoff race, and that it will be driven primarily by youth and black turnout.
Nse Ufot: We have been polling and focus grouping and A/B message testing, and testing our tactics. And I don't think that there's anything that we could have done or said, that has been more impactful than having young voters see the state flip as a result of them turning out and as a result of them showing up. That in real time, they've gotten to see the impact of their vote, and why their votes actually matter.
I'm super optimistic which is why I haven't been getting sleep. And I've been ordering a lot of takeout. Because I believe so much in the power of young voters and the power of voters of color, to shape the future and to build the world that we want to live in. I think that it's going to be close. But I definitely see a path to victory for both Warnock and Ossoff.
Mary Fitzgerald: Meanwhile Republicans, like the Fulton County lawyer Alex Kaufman you heard from earlier, tell me that their voters know how important this race is, and will come good in January.
Alex Kaufman: We've seen unprecedented TV and advertising dollars here. The likes of which have never been seen, many hundreds of millions of dollars to make sure people vote. Our party's view is very simple. Many people have died for the sacred opportunity to vote. We hope you exercise that vote. Every election is important. But this one's extremely important and the eyes of the world are watching our state and the reputation of the people and the government of the state of Georgia is at stake.
Mary Fitzgerald: With all of the money and campaigning directed at the state, anything is possible. Journalist Greg Palast – not usually one for holding back – is hedging his bet on which way things will go.
Greg Palast: I just know it's going to be at least an electoral bloodletting. It's really serious, nasty, brutal, but I don't know how it will ultimately end up, you know what, no one does.
Mary Fitzgerald: So, as the direction of the United States hangs in the balance, and millions continue to suffer intense, prolonged hardship not seen for generations, we’re seeing a fierce political battle for the future – in the state which birthed the Civil Rights movement.
Its old ruling party is at war. Millions of new voters are making their voices heard. Both sides allege fraud, corruption and other dirty tricks. And the polls are too close to call.
During the November election, I travelled 1,400 miles across the country with my colleague Aaron White to bring you the story from the ground.
Now, we’re getting ready to travel right across this new battleground state during the final crunch days of the January election.
What happens next? We’ll be back with another episode right after the result.
Sign up to our newsletter at opendemocracy.net/USA/, and follow us on Twitter for daily updates from the ground.
Get our weekly email