NEW YORK – For news organizations chronicling the vote count in the Georgia Senate runoff elections, Tuesday felt like a rerun from two months ago: nerves on edge, an avalanche of numbers and a lot of Steve Kornacki.
The two Senate elections, with the U.S. Senate's balance of power at stake, attracted media attention that recalled the days after the presidential election, including breathless wall-to-wall coverage on cable news networks.
“It's beyond nail-biting time,” CNN's John King said.
As the hour slipped past 2 a.m. on the East Coast, Democrat Raphael Warnock beat Republican Kelly Loeffler. Democrat Jon Ossoff's lead over Republican David Perdue was slowing inching up. If the two Democrats won, the party would win control of the U.S. Senate.
King and MSNBC's Kornacki dominated their networks with headache-inducing number crunching. Kornacki was MSNBC's breakout star in the aftermath of the general election and he returned Tuesday with his familiar khakis and a “Kornacki cam” that followed his moves during commercial breaks.
“Usual rules apply,” MSNBC's Brian Williams said to him. “Wave your arms if there's any reason to come back to you.”
It was a seesaw night. Warnock and Ossoff jumped to early leads, but as more votes came in, the Republicans swung in front.
It made for some great television suspense, although people following online saw a different view. The New York Times website estimated the victory probabilities in each race and, as the evening progressed, moved steadily in the Democrats' direction. After midnight, the Times judged both Warnock and Ossoff had a better than 95% chance of winning.