U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign stop in Atlanta, Georgia on October 27, 2020.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
WASHINGTON – President-elect Joe Biden will travel to Atlanta, Georgia on Tuesday to blunt for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, his first campaign trip since he was elected president in November.
The stakes could hardly be higher: Ossoff and Warnock challenge incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in runoff elections on January 5, the results of which determine which party controls the US Senate.
After the November elections, the Senate will initially consist of 50 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents who will meet with the Democrats. If Warnock and Ossoff both win their races, the Democrats will have 50 reliable votes, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting a groundbreaking 51st vote.
With 51 votes in the Senate, Biden could realistically hope to pass some of his most comprehensive (and expensive) domestic policy proposals, including a massive green jobs program. He would also receive carte blanche endorsement for his candidates, which would greatly accelerate the pace at which a Biden government could take over the reins of federal bureaucracy.
Despite decades of Republican dominance in Georgian politics, Democrats have reason to be optimistic this year: Biden narrowly won Georgia's referendum, a surprising victory that made him the first Democrat in more than 20 years to win the state in a presidential race .
However, there is no guarantee that Biden's luck will repeat itself in the Senate races.
The poll averages currently show both races neck to neck. But Loeffler and Perdue benefit from the tenure and a historic advantage: Georgia has not sent a Democratic senator to Washington in a generation.
Democrats repeat the 2020 game book
With just under a month to go, the Democrats are repeating many of the tactics that worked to their advantage in November, emphasizing early voting, public health, and grassroots outreach.
Biden's trip coincides with the start of early voting, which begins Monday in Georgia. Democrats invest heavily in getting their voters down early instead of expecting people to queue at crowded polling stations on January 5th. These efforts are particularly urgent given the current surge in coronavirus, which is expected to peak early next year.
The Biden campaign hasn't released the details of the event on Tuesday, but in the final weeks of the presidential campaign, Biden held drive-in rallies that attracted large crowds and kept people a safe distance from each other.
U.S. Senate Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff (R) and Raphael Warnock (L) wave at supporters during a rally in Marietta, Georgia on November 15, 2020.
Jessica McGowan | Getty Images
So far, the Democrats have not personally sent the stars of their party to Georgia in the runoff election, but have preferred to hold virtual events.
Former President Barack Obama, arguably the party's biggest star, led a virtual rally with Ossoff and Warnock on Dec. 4, where he spoke openly to supporters that Biden's national agenda was at stake.
The January results, Obama said, will "determine the course of the Biden presidency and whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can legally honor all of their commitments."
"If you don't have a majority when the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are more interested in disability and stagnation than progress and helping people, they can block almost anything," Obama said.
Republicans flood the zone
While Democrats give priority to public health and early voting in the runoff elections, Republicans are taking a radically different approach: they flood the state with high-profile surrogate motherships while also cheering their grassroots voters by promoting false conspiracies, which President Donald Trump and not Biden. was the rightful winner of the state plebiscite.
In the past few weeks, several popular Republican Senators have visited Georgia to promote Loeffler and Perdue: Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott from Florida, Tom Cotton from Arkansas, Joni Ernst from Iowa and Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee, and Senator-elect Bill Hagerty from Tennessee.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Senator Steve Daines of Montana, and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, all Republicans, are also reportedly planning to swing across the state in the coming days.
But no one embodies the Republican Party's two-part strategy in Georgia more than Trump, who made the state a core part of his conspiracy theories about the presidential election – and his efforts to reverse the legitimate results.
Last weekend, Trump led a massive rally in Valdosta, Georgia that was reportedly a campaign event to empower Loeffler and Perdue. But the president spent much more time on the stage making his own grievances than he did about the two Republican senators. The participants were close together, hardly a mask in sight.
US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and US Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler arrive for a rally on December 5, 2020 in Valdosta, Georgia, USA.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
For nearly two hours, Trump vacillated insisting that fraud and corruption represented a "stolen" victory in Georgia in the presidential election, begging his supporters to fight for him by voting in the state's runoff on January 5 .
"You know, you're angry because so many votes have been stolen. It has been taken away. And you say, 'Well, we won't (vote),'" Trump said. "We can't. We have to do just the opposite. If you don't vote, the socialists and communists win, they win. The Georgia patriots have to come up and vote for these two incredible people."
Trump also fueled his ongoing battle with his former ally, Brian Kemp, Republican governor of Georgia, who has so far refused to take steps Trump is asking him to take to overthrow the referendum.
U.S. President Donald Trump is hosting a campaign event with U.S. Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler at Valdosta Regional Airport in Valdosta, Georgia, United States on December 5, 2020.
Dustin Chambers | Reuters
"Your governor could very easily stop it if he knew what the hell he was doing," Trump told the crowd in Valdosta. "Quit very easily."
Since election day, Kemp has approved several hand censuses in the state, all of which have confirmed Biden's victory.