JANUARY 4, 2021
Georgia voters are hearing final arguments from two presidents on Monday, as Donald Trump and Joe Biden each make their cases ahead of high-stakes Senate runoff elections that will determine who controls the chamber and with it, Biden’s agenda.
The state’s two seats are both up for grabs and if Republicans manage to keep just one of them, the party would have a narrow majority in the Senate, giving Majority Leader Mitch McConnell the power to block Biden’s initiatives, nominees to his administration and the judiciary.
If Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock can take both seats from Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Senate will be split 50-50, giving incoming Vice President Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.
At a drive-in rally in Atlanta, Biden said the entire country is looking to Georgia to help him implement his progressive agenda.
“The power, the power is literally in your hands,” he said. “Unlike any time in my career, one state — one state –can chart the course not just for the next four years but for the next generation.”
He said a Democrat-led Senate would pass $2,000 stimulus checks “to help people in real trouble.”
“Think about what it will mean to your lives,” he said.
Trump has linked the Senate races to his own fate in the state, pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in an extraordinary, hour-long phone call, a recording of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. He urged the official to find a way to shift the state’s presidential results in his favor before Tuesday.
The high stakes have sent a flood of cash pouring into the state. Spending in the two runoffs is approaching $500 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Trump is bringing a number of advisers and allies to the Georgia rally, likely to be one of the last of his presidency, including Representative-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a QAnon adherent who has made racist, Islamaphobic and anti-Semitic statements, as well as his daughter Ivanka Trump and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham.
Vice President Mike Pence was also in the state Monday, speaking at a rally at a church in Milner. He gave a slight chuckle when a “four more years” chant broke out during his remarks.
Pence has not addressed Trump’s call with Raffensperger but it is roiling the Republican Party with even some of Trump’s stalwart allies like Senator Marsha Blackburn calling it “not helpful.”
Pence did briefly speak about the unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud that Trump alleges took place in November’s presidential election, saying that Republicans have “thousands of people” across Georgia, monitoring the election for instances of potential fraud.
“We’re on them. We’re going to secure the polls, we’re going to secure the drop boxes. You get out and vote tomorrow and you vote for David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler and be confident,” Pence said.
Democrats are hoping that a surge of early voting in the state will give them an edge as Republicans traditionally go to the polls on Election Day in larger numbers. An early-vote advantage helped Biden defeat Trump in November by a 11,779-vote margin in the state.
Limited polling in Georgia shows both races extremely close, though Democrats have had a narrow edge. More than 70,000 new voters have registered in the state since Nov. 3. Interest in the race is high — more than 2.8 million people had cast ballots as of Thursday, shattering the previous record for the December 2008 Senate runoff, when 2.1 million votes were cast.
It will likely take at least a few days to know the results and given the stakes, the counts are likely to face legal challenges that could further delay the determination of a winner in either race.
In his remarks, Pence alluded to fears of some Republicans that Trump’s post-election fight could deter Georgia Republicans from voting Tuesday.
“You know, I actually hear some people saying just don’t vote. Men and women of Georgia, if you don’t vote they win,” Pence said.
The unusual dual runoffs are taking place because none of the candidates captured 50% of the vote in the general election, a requirement for winning statewide elections in Georgia.