A day after the Electoral College confirmed President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, he is set to travel to Georgia to campaign for two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates whose January 5 runoff elections could make or break his domestic policy agenda.
Just ahead of Biden’s trip, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, ended his silence on the November 3 election results by congratulating Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
McConnell acknowledged their win after six weeks of President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims of election fraud. Trump has yet to concede to Biden, and many congressional Republicans had refused to acknowledge the victory by Biden, a Democrat.
Biden’s narrow win in Georgia underscored the Southern state’s transformation from a Republican stronghold to one of the country’s most competitive political battlegrounds. This was illustrated again in state election data showing that 168,000 people voted early in person on a rainy day on Monday compared with 136,000 on Oct. 12, the first day of in-person voting for the presidential election.
Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, in twin races that will determine which party will control the U.S. Senate when Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
If the Republicans win either contest, they would maintain power in the Senate, allowing them to thwart many of Biden’s ambitious legislative goals on issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and climate change. A Democratic sweep would give Biden’s party control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. Democrats already hold a majority in the House of Representatives.
Biden makes his trip to Atlanta nine days after Trump traveled to Georgia in support of Perdue and Loeffler.
Trump campaign spokesman Jim Murtaugh said in a statement that Warnock and Ossoff “represent the left-most fringe” of the Democratic Party and that Biden campaigning for them showed he was under the influence of that wing of the party.
As in November, many voters are expected to cast ballots by mail because of the pandemic. Thus far, more than 1.2 million residents have requested absentee ballots, and more than 260,000 have already sent them in, according to the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida.
Biden’s win has boosted Democratic hopes of capturing both seats, along with aggressive efforts to register voters and changing demographics that have pushed the electorate away from Republicans.
Perdue ran ahead of Trump in the November election, however, finishing ahead of Ossoff but just shy of the 50% required to avoid a runoff under state law. A third-party candidate received about 2% of the vote.
The other race had a large field of candidates in November due to its status as a special election because Loeffler was appointed to her seat to fill a vacancy. Warnock and Loeffler finished in the top two positions, each well short of 50%.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into the state from both political parties and an array of outside political groups.
Both sides face turnout challenges in the midst of the pandemic and without the polarizing Trump at the top of the ballot to turn out votes from his deeply loyal supporters and also from detractors with deep animosity toward him.
Some Georgia Republicans have expressed concern that Trump’s repeated insistence, without evidence, that the November results were fraudulent may drive down turnout among his most ardent supporters.
Biden secured the presidency on Monday after the Electoral College formalized his win. Under U.S. law, the president is not elected by a majority of the popular vote but by the Electoral College, which awards electoral votes to the winner of each state based on congressional representation. – Thomson Reuters Foundation.