With victory affirmed, Biden heads to Georgia for Senate runoff rally

A day after declaring it was “time to turn the page” on the election, President-elect Joe Biden will shift his focus to the political contests that will shape his administration with a visit Tuesday to stump for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

The Democrat will headline a drive-in rally in northeast Atlanta on Tuesday afternoon, his first campaign stop since his November election victory over President Donald Trump, which was confirmed Monday by a suspense-less Electoral College vote in Georgia and other battleground states.

Biden’s visit coincides with the start of the three-week early-voting period in the Jan. 5 runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate. Ossoff and Warnock are racing to mobilize the same coalition that made Biden the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry Georgia since 1992.

The former vice president has much at stake with the twin Georgia cliffhangers, which will dictate how ambitiously he can pursue a legislative agenda that includes promises to overhaul voting rights laws, expanded health care access and tax hikes on the wealthy and corporations to fund new infrastructure projects.

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Republicans hold a 50-48 edge in the Senate, and Democrats must defeat both Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to gain control of the chamber with the help of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

His visit comes against the backdrop of an ongoing internal feud in the Georgia GOP. Spreading unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud, Trump has assailed state Republican leaders for refusing his calls to overturn Biden’s victory. And many of his Georgia backers haven’t acknowledged his defeat.

Georgia casts its 16 electoral votes for Joe Biden

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Underscoring the divide, Trump supporters tapped a shadow slate of GOP electors on Monday in a closed-door Capitol room, even as Democrats cast their Electoral College ballots in the legitimate vote one floor above in the state Senate.

Georgia casts its 16 electoral votes for Joe Biden

After the Electoral College formally cemented Biden’s victory, the Democrat delivered a speech late Monday saying it was time to move on from the election and beyond Trump’s “unconscionable” attacks on the voting system.

“We the people voted,” he said. “Faith in our institutions held. The integrity of our elections remains intact. And so now it is time to turn the page, as we’ve done throughout our history. To unite. To heal.”

Ossoff and Warnock are trying to re-create the formula that helped Biden narrowly capture Georgia by roughly 12,000 votes – a victory fueled by overwhelming support from Black voters, soaring turnout of Asian and Latino Georgians and newfound Democratic strength in Atlanta’s suburbs.

Democrats are betting that Biden’s return — he stumped in Georgia a week before the election — will re-energize the base.

Notching another statewide Democratic victory will hinge on motivating all branches of the party, from the liberal left wing to moderates and independents that once voted solidly for Republicans. Biden proved he could generate that sort of support in November, when he tallied nearly 2.5 million ballots to become the state’s leading vote-getter. In the process, Biden out-polled Ossoff by roughly 100,000 votes and Warnock, the leading contender in a 20-candidate special election, by an even greater margin.

Democrats hope the former vice president can help counter the image that Republicans have cast upon the two Senate candidates: As “radical liberal socialists” bent on raising taxes and upending the criminal justice system.

Biden’s centrist-leaning political brand and popularity in Georgia have made him a more difficult target for the Republican incumbents and their allies; they prefer to level broadsides at Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other more liberal Democratic figures.

Republicans are drawing from the same playbook. A half-dozen high-profile GOP figures have already campaigned in Georgia, each invoking the threat of a Schumer-controlled Senate, and Vice President Mike Pence is visiting Columbus and Macon on Thursday — his fourth trip to Georgia since the November election.

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And Trump drew thousands earlier this month to Valdosta, where he urged his loyal supporters to vote for the GOP candidates even as he aired unfounded grievances about a “rigged” election and blasted state officials for refusing his entreaties to reverse his defeat.

Republicans plan to welcome Biden much as they did when he visited Warm Springs a week before the November vote: With a rally panning Democratic policies. A group of sheriffs and law enforcement officers are set to gather at the Capitol before his visit to assail the Senate challengers’ criminal justice proposals.