Biden and Trump to campaign in Georgia ahead of crucial Senate run-offs

Republicans need to win only one of two races on Tuesday to secure Senate majority

Democratic US Senate candidate Jon Ossoff greets a supporter during a canvass launch event in Eatonton, Georgia. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty

Democratic US Senate candidate Jon Ossoff greets a supporter during a canvass launch event in Eatonton, Georgia. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty

 

US president Donald Trump and president-elect Joe Biden will hold competing campaign events in Georgia on Monday, on the eve of two elections that will determine political control of the Senate.

Two incumbent Republican senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – are battling to retain their seats in Tuesday’s elections, after their November 3rd races went to run-offs because no candidate met the 50 per cent threshold needed to win.

Jon Ossoff (33), who is challenging Mr Perdue for his seat, and Raphael Warnock, a black preacher from Atlanta who is competing with Ms Loeffler, have been campaigning heavily in recent weeks. While Democrats’ chances of winning both seats seem remote, polls have shown the two Democrats closing in on their Republican opponents.  

Republicans need to win only one of the races to secure a majority in the new Congress, which convened on Sunday. Democrats need to win both elections to secure 50 seats in the Senate, with incoming vice-president Kamala Harris holding the power to cast tie-breaking votes when needed.

Mr Trump, whose presidency will end on January 20th despite his efforts to overturn the result of the election, is due to hold an event dubbed a “victory rally” by his campaign in Dalton, just north of Atlanta on Monday evening. This is despite the fact that he called the Senate races “illegal and invalid” on Twitter over the weekend.

Mr Biden will hold a campaign event in Atlanta, where Democrats are hoping that strong turnout by the city’s African-American population, young voters and Republican-leaning suburban voters disenchanted by Mr Trump will turn the election in their favour.

Mr Biden became the first Democrat in three decades to win Georgia in November’s presidential election, though Mr Trump is continuing to dispute the outcome, despite two recounts showing that Mr Biden’s victory is secure.

Vote hunt

A recording obtained by the Washington Post on Sunday reveals that Mr Trump tried to pressurise a senior election official in the state to “find” votes and overturn the election in the state during an hour-long phone call on Saturday.

Nonetheless, Mr Biden’s narrow victory – he won the state by 12,000 votes – has prompted concerns among Democrats that victory in both Senate races is a long shot. But former gubernatorial candidate and voting rights campaigner Stacey Abrams said she was quietly confident that Democrats can win.  

“My hope is that Democrats will show up and demonstrate that November was the beginning of a pattern,” she said on Sunday, referring to Mr Biden’s victory in the state.

Ahead of Mr Biden’s visit to Atlanta on Monday, vice-president-elect Kamala Harris campaigned in Savannah for the Democratic candidates.

Amid sharp clashes between the candidates, Mr Ossoff accused Ms Loeffler of campaigning with a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. Ms Loeffler said that she was simply photographed with the man, and was unaware of his white supremacy links.

“This isn’t an isolated incident,” Mr Ossoff said on Sunday, defending his comments. “Kelly Loeffler has repeatedly posed for photographs and been seen campaigning alongside radical white supremacists, and I believe they are drawn to her campaign.”