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Georgia Senate Runoffs To Determine Which Party Controls Chamber

President-elect Joe Biden campaigned in Atlanta for Senate candidates Raphael Warnock (center) and Jon Ossoff (left). President Trump also traveled to Georgia to campaign for the Republican candidates.
Image credit: Carolyn Kaster

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The 2020 election is still not over. A pair of Senate runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday will decide which party will hold the majority in the upper chamber. And despite his loss in November in the presidential election, President Trump looms large in the campaign.

In both contests — Republican David Perdue’s bid to win a second Senate term against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, and the special election, now between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, to serve out the rest of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term — no candidate received 50% in November.

Follow live runoff results here Tuesday night. Polls are set to close at 7 p.m. ET.

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With Democrats keeping control of the House of Representatives and President-elect Joe Biden slated to be sworn in on Jan. 20, the results of Tuesday’s election will shape how much Biden will be able to steer his party’s agenda through a Congress with razor-thin margins on both sides of the Capitol.

Democrats need to win both contests to take control of the Senate from the Republicans, who currently hold the edge after fighting off a series of tough challenges to GOP incumbents in 2020. If the Democratic candidates pull off victories in both races, soon-to-be Vice President Kamala Harris would break the tie in a 50-50 Senate, and Democrats would control committees and the floor schedule, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., installed as the majority leader.

But if either Perdue or Loeffler — or both — win in the Tuesday runoffs, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will continue to preside over a Republican Senate and make Biden’s ability to confirm his Cabinet nominees and get his legislative priorities through a divided Congress much more difficult.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured into Georgia for ads on the airwaves over the last two months, and top surrogates from both parties have traversed the Peach State while the coronavirus pandemic is still surging.

Both Trump and Biden traveled to Georgia the day before the election to rally their supporters to turn out, but already the state’s early vote numbers show that voters are engaged at a level unusual when compared with previous runoff elections.

But in the final stretch of the campaign, Trump’s continued fight about his own loss in Georgia in November remains his chief focus — ahead of making the case for the GOP candidates and the importance of Senate control.

He has touted false claims and, in a stunning one-hour phone call with Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Saturday, pressed him to overturn the results of that election. Audio of that call has put GOP lawmakers in the awkward position of answering questions about the legality of the discussion initiated by the president at a time when they want to mobilize supporters.

Trump’s assertions without any evidence that there was widespread fraud have undermined the Republican base’s faith in the electoral process, prompting GOP leaders and supporters to openly worry that many voters may decide to stay home.

In Monday’s rally, Trump repeated those claims. “They’re not going to take the White House. We’re going to fight like hell,” he said. “When you win in a landslide and they steal it and it’s rigged, it’s not acceptable.”

Vice President Pence, who also stumped for Perdue and Loeffler on Monday, said of the runoff elections, “The very future of the republic is on the line.” He referenced the efforts coming later this week on Capitol Hill by some GOP lawmakers to block final certification of the electoral votes, but he pressed for supporters to show up at the polls.

“I know we all have got our doubts about the last election. I want to assure you that I share the concerns of millions of Americans about voting irregularities. I promise you, come this Wednesday we will have our day in Congress. … Tomorrow is Georgia’s day.”

Biden, appearing at a rally with Ossoff and Warnock in Atlanta on Monday evening, said, “Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you.” Biden linked electing the two Democrats to his ability as president to get additional coronavirus relief through Congress.

He added, “One state can chart the course not just for the next four years but for the next generation.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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