U.S. president-elect Joe Biden on Monday told Georgia Democrats they had the power to “chart the course” for a generation as President Donald Trump rehashed old grievances over his November loss in final pleas ahead of run-off elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate.
Trump made his final-hours pitch to voters at a nighttime rally in north Georgia, where Republicans were banking on strong voter turnout on Tuesday to reelect Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and hold control of the chamber.
Earlier, Biden campaigned with Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock in Atlanta, hoping he could recreate the coalition that secured him a narrow victory in the presidential race in November.
“Folks, this is it. This is it. It’s a new year, and tomorrow can be a new day for Atlanta, for Georgia and for America,” Biden said at a drive-in rally. “Unlike any time in my career, one state — one state — can chart the course, not just for the four years but for the next generation.”
The stakes have drawn hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground. Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of five million cast in November, though Trump continues pushing false assertions of widespread fraud that even his now-former attorney general and Georgia’s Republican secretary of state — along with a litany of state and federal judges — have said did not happen.
Trump’s call refuted
The president’s trip Monday came a day after disclosure of a remarkable telephone call he made to the Georgia secretary of state over the weekend. Trump pressured Republican Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Georgia’s election results ahead of Wednesday’s joint session of Congress that will certify Biden’s electoral college victory. The call highlighted how Trump has used the Georgia campaign to make clear his continued hold on Republican politics.
WATCH | Trump asks Georgia officials to ‘find’ the votes he needs to win:
On Monday, a top election official from Georgia offered a point-by-point refutation of many of Trump’s allegations on the Saturday phone call.
Gabriel Sterling, the voting systems administration manager, said the election was not stolen and mass voter fraud did not occur in his state. But he said the best way to counter that would be to vote in Tuesday’s Senate run-off election.
“If that’s what you genuinely in your heart of hearts believe, turn out and vote. There are people who fought and died and marched and prayed and voted to get the right to vote. Throwing it away because you have some feeling that it may not matter is self-destructive, ultimately, and a self-fulfilling prophecy in the end.”
WATCH | Trump’s call to Georgia’s secretary of state met with outrage:
‘Swamp’ the polls
Angry after the Raffensperger call, Trump floated the idea of pulling out of the rally but was persuaded to go ahead with it so he will have a chance to reiterate his claims of election fraud. Republicans are wary as to whether Trump will focus only on himself and fail to promote the two Republican candidates.
Trump, at a rally in Dalton, Ga., again pressed false claims that the November election was “rigged” and urged Republicans to “swamp” the polls Tuesday.
“The Democrats are trying to steal the White House, you cannot let them,” Trump said. “You just can’t let them steal the U.S. Senate, you can’t let it happen.”
Biden on Monday took aim at Trump’s scheme by declaring that “politicians cannot assert, take or seize power” by undermining legitimate elections.
Biden said he needs a Senate majority to pass legislation to combat the coronavirus, and he blasted Perdue and Loeffler as obstructionist Trump loyalists. Loeffler says she will join other Republican lawmakers in objecting to the electoral college certification of Biden’s victory by Congress on Wednesday.
“You have two senators who think they’ve sworn an oath to Donald Trump, not the United States Constitution,” Biden said.
WATCH | A visibly exasperated Sterling on Trump’s allegations about the Georgia election:
Ossoff and Warnock have campaigned with warnings that a Republican Senate will stymie Biden’s administration, especially on pandemic relief.
Warnock pushed back at the deluge of Loeffler television ads casting him as a socialist. “Have you noticed she hasn’t even bothered to make a case, Georgia, for why you should keep her in that seat?” Warnock said, speaking ahead of Biden. “That’s because she has no case to make.”
More than three million Georgians already have voted. Monday’s push is focused on getting voters to the polls Tuesday. Democrats ran up a wide margin among 3.6 million early votes in the fall, but Republicans countered with an election day surge, especially in small towns and rural areas.
Even with Biden’s statewide win, Perdue led Ossoff by 88,000 votes in November, giving the Republican confidence in the run-off. The run-offs were required because none of the candidates reached a majority vote, as required by Georgia law. Despite Perdue’s initial advantage, early voting figures suggest Democrats have had a stronger turnout heading into Tuesday, and leading Republicans have expressed concerns about the pressure that puts on their turnout operation.