Trump, Biden, Harris to return to Georgia in final push for Senate candidates

President-elect Joe Biden is set to campaign in Atlanta on Monday – the day before the Jan. 5 runoffs – for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That’s the same day that President Donald Trump plans to hold a final rally for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton. Like his event in Valdosta on Dec. 5, Trump’s visit could help energize conservatives – but also further inflame brutal infighting within the state GOP. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will travel to Savannah on Sunday for a campaign stop with the two Democratic contenders, . seeking to energize supporters in a coastal area where early voting turnout has lagged. Democrats must win the Jan. 5 runoffs to force a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate with Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Republicans need only win one of the seats to maintain control of the chamber, though both GOP incumbents are essentially running as a packaged deal

The Georgia Democrats racing to flip control of the U.S. Senate are getting a final boost from President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in the last two days before the high-stakes runoffs.

Biden is set to campaign in Atlanta on Monday – the day before the Jan. 5 runoffs – for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. That’s the same day that President Donald Trump plans to hold a final rally for Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in Dalton.

And Harris will travel to Savannah on Sunday for a campaign stop with the two Democratic contenders, seeking to energize supporters in a coastal area where early voting turnout has lagged.

Biden’s office didn’t immediately announce other details of the visits on Wednesday when it outlined the plans, so it’s not clear if the president-elect’s visit will coincide with Trump’s nighttime rally to create a split-screen made-for-TV spectacle.

At the very least, though, the clashing campaign events offer the promise of rival attention-grabbing rallies on the eve of runoffs that will shape Biden’s presidency.

12/21/2020 — Columbus, Georgia — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (left) waves to the crowd alongside Georgia US Senate Democratic candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) and Jon Ossoff (right) during a car rally in Columbus, Georgia, Monday, December 21, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
12/21/2020 — Columbus, Georgia — Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (left) waves to the crowd alongside Georgia US Senate Democratic candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock (center) and Jon Ossoff (right) during a car rally in Columbus, Georgia, Monday, December 21, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Democrats must win both the Jan. 5 runoffs to force a 50-50 tie in the U.S. Senate with Harris as the tie-breaking vote. Republicans need only win one of the seats to maintain control of the chamber, though both GOP incumbents are essentially running as a packaged deal.

Republicans have cast the election as a “firewall” against total Democratic control of the White House, though the two incumbents have yet to acknowledge Biden’s victory. Ossoff and Warnock say that GOP victories will create deeper gridlock in the Senate and jeopardize Biden’s legislative agenda.

The twin cliffhangers have attracted astounding national attention and unprecedented spending. About $800 million has already poured into the contests, most of it financing an onslaught of TV ads. Legions of volunteers canvass cities, suburbs and rural areas, and mailboxes are filled with heaps of flyers daily.

More than 2.3 million Georgians have already cast early ballots, and campaign operatives from both parties say Democrats are building an early advantage. But Republicans are relying on a surge of votes on election day, hoping to erase the Democratic edge with an overwhelming turnout.

That’s where the party leaders step in. Biden last visited on Dec. 15, tying the fate of his plan to contain the coronavirus to Georgia’s runoff votes. He thanked supporters for making him the first Democrat to carry the state in a White House race since 1992 before issuing a challenge.

“Well, guess what?” he told the crowd. “Now you’re going to have to do it again.”

Democrats hope Biden’s next visit can inspire less regular voters, particularly those who voted in November purely to oppose Trump, to return to the polls. They also are betting that his relatively moderate brand of politics can help counter the GOP messaging depicting Ossoff and Warnock as “radical liberals.”

December 5, 2020 Valdosta - U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks as President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue look on during the Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Trump urged residents to vote for Loeffler and Perdue in next month's runoffs in Georgia. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
December 5, 2020 Valdosta - U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler speaks as President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. David Perdue look on during the Republican National Committee's Victory Rally at the Valdosta Flying Services in Valdosta on Saturday, December 5, 2020. Trump urged residents to vote for Loeffler and Perdue in next month's runoffs in Georgia. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

On the same day, Trump will hold his rally in Dalton, the heart of northwest Georgia territory where early voting turnout has trailed other parts of the state. Like his event in Valdosta on Dec. 5, Trump’s visit could help energize conservatives – but also further inflame brutal infighting within the state GOP. It’s a risk the Senate campaigns are willing to take.

At that earlier event, Trump praised both Loeffler and Perdue as staunch supporters of his agenda. But he spent most of his remarks airing his own unfounded grievances about the November election, sending his loyalists conflicting messages by urging them to vote in a “rigged” election.

And he intensified his war with fellow Republicans, particularly Gov. Brian Kemp, who has repeatedly refused his demand to illegally undo Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia. The Democrat won Georgia by about 12,000 votes, and legal challenges to the outcome have been rejected by courts at every level.

Vice President Mike Pence has also visited Georgia four separate times since the Nov. 3 elections, and there’s a chance he returns in the final sprint of the race as well. He has urged Georgians to “stay in this fight” for conservative values, while praising the two Republicans as loyal supporters of Trump’s agenda.

Harris’ visit will come two weeks after she last stumped in Georgia. That trip brought her to the Columbus area, where she told Georgians that a vote for the Democrats will “impact people you will never meet” across the nation.

“What we did in November,” she told voters at that drive-in rally, “we can do again.”

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News