Biden, Harris going back to Georgia before Senate runoffs

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President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will travel to Georgia in the final days before the state’s two Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, in a last-ditch bid to boost the Democratic candidates who could flip control of the chamber.

Harris will visit Savannah, Ga., on Sunday, and Biden will appear in Atlanta on Monday — the eve of the election — to campaign for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, according to a Wednesday news release from the president-elect’s transition team.

Ossoff, an investigative journalist and former congressional candidate, is facing off against first-term Republican Sen. David Perdue on Jan. 5, after neither candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote in the November election.

Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, is challenging appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the race to finish out the final two years of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. Warnock and Loeffler were the top two vote-getters in the 21-person all-party special election for Loeffler’s seat in November.

The pair of high-profile runoff races will have huge consequences for Biden’s incoming administration. If both Ossoff and Warnock prevail, control of the Senate will be split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, with Harris casting tie-breaking votes on legislation critical to the president-elect’s agenda.

Biden and Harris have each visited the state once since the Nov. 3 general election: Biden campaigned in Atlanta on Dec. 15, and Harris was in Columbus, Ga. — on the state’s western border with Alabama — on Dec. 21 to stump for Ossoff and Warnock.

The news of Biden’s and Harris’ upcoming visits to the state come after President Donald Trump announced on Twitter earlier this month that he would stage a “big Rally” in Dalton, Ga., on behalf of Perdue and Loeffler on Jan. 4.

So far, more than 2.3 million people have voted in the two races through mail-in ballots or in-person early voting, already surpassing the record for the most votes cast in a Georgia runoff election.

The early vote numbers show positive signs for Ossoff and Warnock, with Black voters making up a larger percentage of the electorate compared with November’s election and higher early turnout in Democratic congressional districts. So far, early-vote turnout has fallen short in Republican congressional districts.

Further complicating Loeffler’s and Perdue’s paths to victory are Trump’s continued attacks on Republican state officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who have denied the president’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud after Biden triumphed in Georgia last month.

Trump caused more headaches for Senate Republicans last week when he demanded that Congress increase the amount of direct payments to individual Americans from $600 to $2,000 in the latest coronavirus relief package, which he nevertheless ended up signing over the weekend.

Loeffler and Perdue were quick to line up behind Trump’s demand for $2,000 stimulus checks, with Perdue saying on Wednesday that he was “in full support” of the new figure and calling it the “the right thing to do.”

Perdue also denied that the president’s criticisms of Kemp and Raffensperger were making his reelection bid more difficult. Trump is merely “exercising his right” by questioning the legitimacy of the November election, Perdue said, and while “we know there’s some questions” about that contest, “we’re telling people, if you’re upset about November, get out and vote.”

Apart from Trump’s trip to Georgia next week, Perdue previewed another potential visit by Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday, and said members of the first family would also be hitting the campaign trail ahead of the Tuesday election. “It’s all hands on deck here,” he told Fox News.

Ossoff, meanwhile, accused Perdue on Wednesday of having “flipped his position” on stimulus checks “at the very last minute.”

“He doesn’t mean any of this,” Ossoff told MSNBC. “He’s just another dime-a-dozen politician who will say whatever he has to say when an election arrives to try to win reelection.”

If Perdue were serious about his support for the direct payments, Ossoff added, “he’d be on the floor of the United States Senate demanding that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell put up the House bill — a clean $2,000 check authorization — for an up-or-down vote.”

The House voted overwhelmingly on Monday to approve $2,000 stimulus checks. But while McConnell has also introduced a bill that would increase the payments, his legislation includes controversial measures pushed by the president that would repeal legal protections for social media companies and establish an election fraud commission.

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