Joe Biden and Donald Trump to hold dueling campaign events in Georgia on Monday

Joe Biden and Donald Trump will hold dueling campaign events in Georgia on Monday, the day before a special election that will decide which party controls the Senate.

Biden will be in Atlanta to campaign for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock while Trump will be in Dalton, Georgia, for Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. 

Both the president-elect and the president will try to rally their respective bases and give their candidates one final boost before the January 5th special election.

The presence of Biden and Trump in the state is sure to grab headlines and news coverage ahead of the crucial vote, particularly as Trump has railed against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. 

The president called on Kemp to resign on Wednesday, tweeting that he ‘should resign from office. He is an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG! Also won the other Swing States.’

Trump is furious Kemp won’t overturn the presidential election results in Georgia in his favor. Two recounts confirmed Biden’s win in the state.

Republicans need to win at least one of the seats in order to retain a slim majority in the Senate, which would let them block Biden’s legislative agenda and judicial nominees in the first years of his presidency.

If Democrats win both seats, the chamber will be split 50-50, giving the tie-breaking vote to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Harris will campaign for the candidates in Georgia on Sunday.

President Donald Trump

President-elect Joe Biden and President Donald Trump will hold dueling campaign events in Georgia on Monday ahead of a crucial special election that will decide control of the Senate

President Trump called on Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia to resign

President Trump called on Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia to resign

Trump is furious Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia won't overturn the state's presidential election results in his favor

Trump is furious Republican Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia won’t overturn the state’s presidential election results in his favor

Both sides are bringing in big names and political fire power. Singer Jon Legend and former President Barack Obama cut a final campaign ad for Ossoff. And Vice President Mike Pence, who has already made four campaign trips for the Republican senators, could make one final stop before Tuesday’s election. 

Early voting in the state has broken records – more than 2.3 million people have voted as of Tuesday morning – giving Democrats hope for victory and stoking Republican fears that President Trump’s criticism of mail-in ballots could hurt them.

And money has poured into the state: about $800 million has already been spent on the two Senate contests.

Biden carried Georgia in the November election, the first Democratic presidential candidate to do so since 1992.  

Loeffler and Perdue, meanwhile, have found themselves trapped between their party and their president.

Trump has railed against Republicans for not supporting his wish for Congress to challenge the electoral college results when it meets on January 6th. He’s also criticized his own party for not expanding the stimulus checks to Americans from $600 to $2,000.

The president stayed on the sidelines while the COVID relief negotiations took place, only to come in after Congress passed the deal to demand the check amount be tripled.  

Loeffler and Perdue came out on Monday in support of Trump’s call for more money, which many Republican senators oppose because of the high cost.

The two Georgia senators are counting on Trump supporters to come out in droves on January 5th to put them over the top in the Senate contests, which are expected to be close. 

But neither senator has said how they will vote when it comes to overriding Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The crucial defense bill funds the Pentagon and gives a pay raise to troops. The House voted to override Trump’s veto on Monday. The Senate is expected to do the same when it votes on the matter, with many Republicans going against the president. 

Trump will rally for the two senators on Monday in Dalton, in the heart of conservative territory. 

The president last visited Georgia earlier this month for a similar rally in Valdosta where he ended up railing against Kemp and Republican secretary of state for not overturning the state’s election result in his favor. 

The president has stoked in-fighting in the GOP with his demands of loyalty after his election loss. It’s unclear what effect it will have on the Senate contests – whether Trump’s loyal supporters will come to the polls or stay home.

Senator David Perdue

Senator Kelly Loeffler

Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both face runoff elections that will decide the fate of the Senate on January 5th

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock greet each other onstage during the "Vote GA Blue" concert on December 28

Georgia Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock greet each other onstage during the ‘Vote GA Blue’ concert on December 28

In the nearly two months since the general election in November, Georgians have been inundated by radio and television advertisements, mailings, calls, text messages and even hand-written notes from out-of-state residents urging them to vote.

Runoff elections historically draw a much lower turnout than general elections, and in Georgia they have favored Republican candidates in the last decade or so. But in this unique election – with national attention, money pouring in and control of the Senate at stake – the normal rules don’t seem to apply.

Rather than dropping dramatically, early voting for the runoff is only about 20% lower than the early turnout at the same point before the general election, though missed days over Christmas and other key differences make a direct comparison difficult. 

Voters don’t register by party in Georgia, but experts who have been tracking early voting data say the high turnout, particularly among African American voters, and the continued engagement of younger voters is a good sign for the Democrats.

‘These are the numbers that the Democrats need in order to be able to win the election,’ said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks vote counts for the U.S. Elections Project. ‘It doesn’t mean that they are going to win. It´s just the numbers they would want to see if they are going to win.’

But McDonald and others are quick to say that the election results are likely to be very close, and there’s too much uncertainty to draw reliable conclusions from the early voting data about which candidates will win.

While early voting trends so far may seem to favor Democrats, Republicans typically have higher Election Day turnout and they could also make gains in the final days of early in-person or absentee voting, McDonald said. 

Former President Barack Obama and singer Jon Legend cut an ad for Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff

Former President Barack Obama and singer Jon Legend cut an ad for Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff

There are also wildcard factors like the weather – though the current Election Day forecast is mild and dry across the state – and possible complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

In-person early voting ends statewide on Thursday, though some counties observe New Year’s Eve as a holiday so Wednesday will be their last day. Absentee ballots can be returned by mail or in drop boxes to be counted as long as they’re received by 7 p.m. on Election Day.

Perdue and Loeffler both failed to win a majority of votes in the general election last month, forcing the runoffs.

After a bitter fight during the general election between Loeffler and third-place finisher GOP Congressman Doug Collins, Republicans needs to focus on making sure Collins voters support Loeffler for the runoff, Emory University political science professor Bernard Fraga said. They also need to stress the importance of voting despite repeated claims from President Trump and his allies that the presidential election was rigged and marred by fraud.

‘Republicans can´t afford to throw away any votes,’ Fraga said. ‘I think this just adds to the pressure on Trump to make a very forceful push to his supporters regarding the importance of this election and the importance of their participation in this election.’

In the final days before the election, Democrats need to work on turning out Latino and Asian American voters, Fraga said. Participation by both groups surged in the general election, but they are less consistent voters and will need extra mobilization to turn out in the runoff, he said. A continued focus on younger voters is also critical.

‘It looks a lot better for Democrats now than anyone would have predicted based on the historical record,’ Fraga said. ‘I think the question is whether it´s enough and the next few days are going to be key for seeing whether the group-level differences in turnout are suggestive of a pattern that favors Democrats.’

So far, very few of the runoff voters are people who didn’t vote in general election, Fraga said.

‘If we assume that very few people are changing their minds about which party they´re going to vote for in the runoff, then much of the electoral landscape has already been baked in in Georgia and it´s really a story about turnout instead of changing people´s minds,’ he said.

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