Biden Stumps for Georgia Democrats to Forge Path for His Agenda
(Bloomberg) -- President-elect Joe Biden’s visit to Georgia on behalf of two Democratic Senate candidates on Tuesday underscores how much his first-term agenda depends on having both chambers of Congress on his side when he takes office next month.
That Biden is even welcome in Georgia reflects a change in the state’s Democratic politics, which for years tried to distance itself from the national party. But with Biden’s narrow victory there in November and Democrats aiming to turn out their base voters, candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are embracing him -- and he’s eagerly approaching his last shot to get the Senate on his side in January.
“Any downside, if I can even conjure one up, would be far outweighed by the upside,” Atlanta-based Democratic strategist Howard Franklin said of Biden’s trip.
Biden is planning to visit Atlanta one day after the Electoral College sealed his presidential victory even as some top Republicans, including President Donald Trump, refused to recognize it.
On Jan. 5, Georgia will settle its two Senate races from the Nov. 3 election, both of which went into runoffs. Senator Kelly Loeffler is being challenged by Warnock and Ossoff is challenging Senator David Perdue.
If either Perdue or Loeffler wins re-election, the GOP will hold on to its Senate majority. That gives leader Mitch McConnell the power to block Biden’s cabinet nominees and his legislative agenda, setting Washington up for more years of drawn-out negotiations – or inaction.
Wins by Warnock and Ossoff would divide the Senate 50-50 and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast any tie-breaking votes.
“Democrats have one last chance to win the majority -- and it all comes down to what happens in Georgia! That’s why President-elect Joe Biden is visiting the Peach State tomorrow,” Warnock’s campaign said in a Monday fundraising email that included Biden’s name in the subject line, embracing the national importance of the race.
Biden’s visit comes on the second day of early voting ahead of the Jan. 5 election.
Biden’s visit could help boost Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts and potentially persuade some swing voters, especially in the Atlanta suburbs, which supported him in November. His middle-of-the-road message, focused on public health and the economic recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, could offer reassurance as Republicans warn against the “radical liberal” Democrats, a phrase Loeffler used 13 times against Warnock during a debate earlier this month.
“Biden is one of those politicians who is comfortable in the middle, who is not a lightning rod,” Franklin said.
A SurveyUSA poll conducted in late November -- the most recent reputable survey of the state -- found Ossoff leading Perdue 50% to 48%, within the poll’s margin of error, while Warnock had a 7-point lead over Loeffler, 52% to 45%.
With the national stakes clear, Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are also campaigning in the state, though the GOP argument about not giving Biden a rubber-stamp Senate is complicated by their refusal to acknowledge Biden’s win.
“The stake in this election is control of the U.S. Senate and that really means the control of this country,” Trump said during a Dec. 5 rally in Valdosta. Loeffler and Perdue “believe in our values and all that we stand for,” he said, while the Democrats are the “two most extreme, far-left liberal candidates.”
The Republicans had an early financial advantage in the runoffs, raising $95 million between Election Day and Nov. 23, more than four times as much as the $18 million Democrats gave allied groups over the same period.
But the Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee are rallying their resources to help Ossoff and Warnock.
“The president-elect has asked us to ensure that we’re in partnership wherever possible so our teams are helping on the ground and we’re ensuring that whatever they need, we’re helping support them too,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon told reporters on Sunday.
The campaign and the DNC have put $5 million into Georgia so far, a Biden campaign official said. They’ve moved about 50 staffers to the runoff efforts and are paying for their organizing work on the ground in the state. And about a dozen analytics and tech staffers who worked on the general election have shifted their attention to the Georgia races, the official said.
The Biden campaign and the DNC are also helping Ossoff and Warnock raise money, and have brought in nearly $10 million so far, the Biden official said.
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