President-elect Joe Biden campaigned in Georgia on Monday to get out the vote for two Democratic candidates for US Senate whose success or failure in state-wide elections tomorrow will determine the direction of his presidency.
“Folks, this is it. This is it. It’s a new year and tomorrow is going to be a new day for Atlanta and for Georgia,” Biden said at a rally with Democratic senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
“We need you to vote again in record numbers, to make your voices heard again and again, to change Georgia and to change America,” Biden said.
Biden won in Georgia in the November presidential election, the first time a Democratic presidential candidate has won the longtime Republican stronghold since 1992.
New Black activism and voter registration drives led by former Georgia House of Representatives leader Stacey Abrams have increased hope for Ossoff and Warnock.
Both underdogs in the polls until now, Ossoff and Warnock are competing neck-and-neck in runoff races against incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler that have gripped national attention in the US.
“This is not an exaggeration. Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you,” Biden said in his appeal to Georgia Democrats.
President Donald Trump will visit Georgia later on Monday.
Currently, Democrats control 48 seats in the 100-member Senate and Republicans have 50. If either Loeffler or Perdue wins their races on Tuesday, Republicans will maintain control of the Senate. But if they both lose Democrats will take control, with Vice President Kamala Harris having the ability to settle any tie-breaker votes in a 50-50 Senate.
A sweep for Democrats in the races would vastly improve Biden’s chances of passing his legislative agenda, as Democrats control the House of Representatives.
Beyond legislative goals, Democratic control of the Senate would also help Biden shape the first years of his presidency, as cabinet nominees and federal judges – including Supreme Court justices – are confirmed by a simple majority in the chamber.
‘I just want to find 11,780 votes’
Tuesday’s vote will be yet another step towards the end of a tumultuous election season that has seen Trump continue to allege, without evidence, widespread fraud and voting irregularities.
Trump continued his attempts to overturn the results in the state on Saturday, urging Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a phone call to recalculate the total to give him victory.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state,” Trump told Raffensperger in the call, the audio of which was obtained by US media.
Biden won Georgia by 11,779 votes, according to the final total certified by the state.
Loeffler and Perdue have both tied their political fates to Trump’s baseless claims of election malfeasance, with the candidates calling on Raffensperger to resign in the wake of the general election, citing “mismanagement and lack of transparency”, without offering further evidence.
In the waning days of the race, Ossoff, Warnock, and Loeffler have been on a campaign blitz, as Perdue waits in isolation after being exposed to a person infected with the coronavirus.
Biden campaigned in Atlanta, a day after Vice President-elect Harris visited the city of Savannah. Biden had previously campaigned in Georgia on December 15.
The duelling Senate races have drawn $490m in media spending by candidates, their parties and outside groups, according to the tracking firm AdImpact.
Early voting has shattered previous records in runoffs, with more than three million votes cast so far. Such voting tends to favour Democrats, with a larger share of Republicans expected to vote on election day.
Both parties have conducted extensive get-out-the-vote drives, with Democrats hoping increased turnout from the sizable Black population will carry their candidates to victory.
Giving Ossoff and Warnock hope, more than 110,000 voters who did not participate in the November general election have already cast ballots likely to favour Democrats.
Will Trump help or hurt?
Trump, who is scheduled to hold a rally on Monday night in Dalton, a small city in a rural area of north Georgia near the Blue Ridge Mountains, has walked a haphazard line in supporting Loeffler and Perdue.
On the same day as the phone call to Raffensperger, he tweeted that Tuesday’s runoffs are “illegal and invalid”. But shortly after, he urged Republicans to “get ready to vote on Tuesday”.
A big question mark hanging over tomorrow’s vote is whether Trump’s quixotic attacks on the vote in Georgia will help or hurt the two Republican candidates.
In his remarks in Atlanta, the state’s biggest city, Biden explicitly tied Loeffler and Purdue to Trump and Trump’s attempts to overturn the results of the US election.
“You have two senators who think it is more important to reward wealth than hard work,” Biden said of Loeffler and Purdue, both millionaires.
“You have two senators now who think they don’t work for you, they work for Trump,” he said.
“You have two senators who think their loyalty is to Trump, not to Georgia.”