Senate management and Biden’s agenda are at stake as Reuters’s Georgia runoff elections come up

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Senator David Perdue (R-GA) wave during a campaign rally at the Olde Blind Dog Irish pub in Milton

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By Nathan Layne and Joseph Ax

CUTHBERT, Ga. (Reuters) – Control of the U.S. Senate – and with it the likely fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda – will be on the ballot on Tuesday when Georgian voters decide on double elections.

The high-stakes campaign that has been going on since November 3, when Biden defeated President Donald Trump in the presidential election, wiped out spending records and sparked an unprecedented turnout. Political groups have flooded the southern state with a tsunami of television commercials.

Both Biden, a Democrat, and Trump, a Republican, will be visiting on Monday, underscoring the political interests of the competitions.

If either or both incumbent Republican senators – David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler – win on Tuesday, their party would retain a slim majority, effectively giving Senate Republicans a veto over Biden’s most ambitious goals. A Democratic sweep would result in a 50:50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaker who dictates control.

Democrat Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, challenges Perdue while Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, challenges Loeffler.

Biden’s narrow win in Georgia in November – the first in a generation for a Democratic presidential candidate – completed the state’s transition from a Republican stronghold to a highly competitive battlefield.

The head-to-head drains on January 5th were triggered when no candidate scored 50% in either race in November. According to surveys, the competitions are virtual dead heats.

The early vote shattered the records of the runoff election. 3 million ballot papers have already been cast.

“Those are crazy numbers,” said Michael McDonald, professor of political science at the University of Florida, who followed the vote in Georgia.

Black turnout, which is vital to the Democrats’ chances, has been robust. About a third of the ballots come from self-identified black voters, up from around 27% in November.

“Democrats need to see such an electorate to win the election,” said McDonald. But he said it was impossible to predict the final outcome and warned that Republicans could appear in greater numbers on election day.

Bobby Jenkins, the Democratic chairman in rural Randolph County, said he felt good about his county’s high early voting numbers after an aggressive door-to-door push to get the black vote.

“It will depend on how many Republicans are in attendance on election day,” he said.

According to the tracking company AdImpact, the races raised a staggering $ 490 million in ad spend. Biden’s political team has allocated at least $ 18 million to the democratic effort, including staff, data support and fundraising, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Nearby, the results could remain unclear for days as the ballots are counted and legal challenges could prolong the process. Biden’s 12,000-vote victory took more than a week to be confirmed, and two recounts pushed the state’s final certification into December.

Biden will rally next to Ossoff and Warnock in Atlanta on Monday, while Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will camp out in Savannah on Sunday.

Trump will visit heavily republican Whitfield County in northwest Georgia on Monday. But the president’s insistence with no evidence that his loss was due to fraud has made some Republicans concerned that his most ardent supporters might stay home, convinced that the vote has been rigged.

Trump has called for the resignation of Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, after they refused to substantiate his fraud claims.

Loeffler and Perdue struck an uncomfortable balance in supporting Trump’s allegations, despite warning that they are a “firewall” against a democratic takeover. They portrayed their opponents as radical socialists.

Ossoff and Warnock have accused Republicans of downplaying the pandemic while profiting from it by quietly selling stocks. Investigations have resulted in no charges, and both Perdue and Loeffler said they did not personally manage the sale.

Perdue was absent from the last days of the campaign after being exposed to someone infected with the coronavirus. Republicans have planned an election night party in Atlanta while Democrats have avoided an in-person event due to the pandemic.

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