Official Says Trump to Blame If GOP Loses: Election Update
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. (Photographer: Oliver Contreras/SIPA/Bloomberg)

Official Says Trump to Blame If GOP Loses: Election Update

Donald Trump is to blame if Republican senators lose, Georgia election official says. Supporters of Georgia’s Republican senators gathered, with many not wearing masks. Most voters surveyed said that which party ends up controlling the Senate was a key issue for them in Tuesday’s election. And the two Republicans in the runoff races called for more GOP voters to turn out before polls closed.

Other Developments:

Official Says Trump is to Blame if Republican Senators Lose

Gabriel Sterling, the Georgia elections official and Republican who has aggressively refuted Donald Trump’s continuing unfounded claims of fraud, said the blame will “fall squarely” on the president if Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue lose their runoff races.

Offering his personal opinion on CNN when asked who would be at fault if one or both Republicans lose, Sterling said Trump’s constant allegations of fraud since the Nov. 3 election and calls for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign for not being willing to overturn election results sows doubt in elections and divides Republicans.

“When you tell people your vote doesn’t count and has been stolen and people start to believe that – and then you go to the two senators and tell them to ask the secretary of state to resign and trigger a civil war inside the Republican Party when you need Republicans to unite, all of that stems from his decision-making since the Nov. 3rd election,” Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, said on CNN.

Sterling has previously denounced Trump and other elected officials for not condemning the threats of violence that were being made against election workers, and on Monday, he offered a point-by-point refutation of the claims of fraud that the president and his allies have been making in efforts to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden while imploring people to vote.

The Georgia elections official described trying to debunk the repeated allegations of fraud as a “giant game of whack-a-mole” and that the constant drumbeat about a rigged election system hurts the faith of Georgia voters -- especially Republicans. --Mark Niquette

Loeffler, Perdue Supporters Begin to Gather in Atlanta

Supporters of Republican Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are gathering in the ballroom of the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta‘s Buckhead district -- some without masks despite the coronavirus pandemic -- as results continue to come in for the two Senate runoff races.

About 30% of approximately 250 people in the ballroom were not wearing masks -- socializing, hugging and posing for photographs. The stage is framed by two gigantic television screens, both of them tuned to Fox News.

In the background, a giant poster read, “Hold the Line.” Perdue, who has been in quarantine after a staffer was diagnosed with Covid-19, was expected to address the crowd via Zoom. His cousin Sonny Perdue, the state’s former governor and President Donald Trump’s agriculture secretary, appeared in person at the event, along with the current governor, Brian Kemp.

Democrats are not planning to hold an election night party for supporters. -- Brett Pulley

Georgia Voters Say Senate Control Is Key Issue in Vote

Most voters in Tuesday’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia said which party controls the chamber was either the most important or an important consideration in their choice of candidates, according to an Associated Press survey.

Democrats will flip control of the Senate if both Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeat incumbent Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Republicans only need to hold on to one of the seats to keep control.

Party composition of the Senate was the most important issue for 60% of voters and an important one for 34%, while only 6% said it was a minor factor or non-factor, according to AP VoteCast, a phone and online survey of verified Georgia voters conducted over the last eight days.

The survey also showed that 43% of Georgia voters approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the 2020 election results, while while 55% disapprove. Trump has disputed Joe Biden’s victory and sought to overturn it, making baseless claims of fraud.

Also, 46% of voters said they are very confident in the accuracy of the 2020 vote, compared with 16% who are somewhat confident, 12% not too confident and 26% not at all confident, according to AP. -- Mark Niquette

Loeffler, Perdue Call for More Republican Voters to Turn Out

In an unusual joint statement, Republican Senate candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue called on Republican voters in Georgia to turn out Tuesday just hours before the polls closed.

After noting that they were “encouraged by reports of high voter turnout across the state,” the two candidates then pivoted to urge more Republicans to show up at polling places.

“This generational election will be decided by the votes cast in the next few hours -- no one should be sitting on the sidelines,” they wrote in a statement issued at 3:39 p.m. New York time. “Go vote!”

With Democrats heavily favoring early voting in November’s general election and Tuesday’s runoffs, the two Republicans need a strong showing of in-person voting to win.

Some Republicans have been concerned in recent days that turnout might be depressed by President Donald Trump’s false claims about voter fraud in the state and his attempts to hamper the counting of electors in Congress on Wednesday.

Elections Official Says Runoffs Are ‘Running Smoothly’ (2:54 p.m.)

The Senate runoffs in Georgia are “running smoothly,” with no reports of long lines, while issues cropped up briefly in Columbia County due to problems in programming equipment that were later resolved, the secretary of state’s office said.

Average wait times were 1 minute across the state as of 12:45 p.m. local time, and no polling locations reported wait times longer than 30 minutes, the office said in a news release. Only one site showed longer than 20 minutes, it said.

In Columbia County, just outside of Augusta, some keys that start paper-ballot scanners and cards for voting machines were programmed incorrectly, but voting continued on emergency ballots and the issues were resolved by 10 a.m., the office said.

Official Says Trump to Blame If GOP Loses: Election Update

Trump tweeted there were reports “that Dominion Machines are not working in certain Republican Strongholds for over an hour.”

But Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, tweeted back that the issue was resolved and “the votes of everyone will be protected and counted. Sorry you received old intel Mr. President.” -- Mark Niquette

Wall Street Looks to Georgia for Signs on Stimulus (1:15 p.m.)

The two runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of the Senate are dominating the attention of financial markets.

Bond market inflation expectations climbed to multiyear highs, while the Invesco Solar ETF -- thought to benefit should President-elect Joe Biden’s energy policies gain support in Congress -- climbed 1.4% on Tuesday, out-pacing a 0.5% gain in the S&P 500 Index.

Underpinning the action is the idea that Democrats in control of both chambers of Congress would make it easier for lawmakers to deliver a bigger stimulus package and pass Biden’s policies than with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate. Heftier government spending could push inflation higher, potentially boosting bond yields and so-called cyclical stocks alongside it.

“Georgia is top of mind, partly because it should have a clear resolution in the near-term and that provides clarity on likely U.S. spending plans,” said Peter Tchir, head of macro strategy at Academy Securities. “A lot is at stake in terms of stimulus and debt issuance.”

Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that a Democratic Congress would likely lead to an added $600 billion of fiscal stimulus, mostly in 2021, on top of the recently enacted $900 billion package.

The races are expected to be close. On Monday, the uncertainty sent the Cboe Volatility Index, known as the VIX, to the highest level on a closing basis since the week of the November elections. -- Katherine Greifeld

Few Problems Reported at the Polls in Georgia (11:57 a.m.)

Voting went smoothly on the morning of Election Day in Georgia, with few polling places reporting problems.

A polling place in Columbia County in central Georgia reported a programming error that prevented electronic voting, leading poll workers to hand out back-up paper ballots instead. The problem was later resolved.

Election Day voting went smoothly in the state in November after a disastrous primary in June, in part because many voters cast their ballots early, reducing crowding at polling places.

Still, Democrats have raised concerns about mail-in voting in the runoff election.

According to U.S. Postal Service data, as of late December the agency was still processing only about three-fourths of mail-in ballots on time in the Atlanta area, which is heavily Democratic. Ballots must be received by 7 p.m. Tuesday by mail or at a drop box to be counted.

State Official Predicts Georgia Results Wednesday (10:15 a.m.)

A top Georgia elections official predicted the results of Tuesday’s runoffs will be available Wednesday morning, but the high number of absentee ballots could prolong the wait.

“It depends how close it is but most likely it’ll probably be tomorrow morning,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Tuesday on Fox News. He said voting was proceeding smoothly, with brief delays in opening in only a couple of precincts on Tuesday.

Polls have shown the races to be extremely close, and the U.S. Postal Service may have trouble delivering mail-in ballots to state officials in time for Tuesday’s deadline to receive them.

“Lines are moving, we don’t have long lines, hopefully we’ll have a great turnout today,” he said. “As a Republican, I hope our senators win. But as secretary of state, my job is to make sure we have fair and honest elections and that’s what we’ve done in Georgia.”

Trump, who has baselessly accused the state of releasing fraudulent results after he lost to Biden in November, pressured Raffensperger during a call Saturday to “find” votes that would flip the state to him, a call that has raised legal concerns.

In the Fox interview, Raffensperger again pushed back against Trump’s false claims.

“I can assure you that it’ll be a fair and honest election, that it’ll be safe that it’ll be dependable,” Raffensperger said Tuesday. “That’s what we had in November. But we had someone that didn’t get the number of votes they wanted in Georgia and then disparaged our voting system.”-- Josh Wingrove

More Than 3 Million Early Voted in Georgia (9:47 a.m.)

The more than 3 million people who voted early in Georgia’s Senate races may be a record high for a runoff but still just below the early vote totals from November.

According to data from the U.S. Elections Project from Monday evening, 2.1 million Georgians voted in-person before Election Day for the runoffs, compared to 2.7 million in November.

In addition, 966,702 mail-in ballots have been returned and accepted so far, compared to 1.3 million that counted in November. That number could change, as ballots that have been received but not processed are counted.

Official Says Trump to Blame If GOP Loses: Election Update

The early votes include 113,856 Georgians who did not cast a ballot in the general election, which Democrats say lean toward young and African-American voters who are likely to support Democratic contenders Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

However, Republicans dominated Election Day voting in November, so a surge of voters on Tuesday could overcome the potential advantage for Democrats in the early vote.

Georgia Voters Head to Polls to Decide Senate Runoffs

The polls are open in Georgia for election-day voting in two Senate runoffs that will determine which party controls the Senate, and with it the fate of much of Biden’s agenda.

Interest in the race is extremely high, shattering early-vote turnout records. Some 3 million people have voted before polls opened for in-person voting at 7 am New York time.

If Democrats Ossoff and Warnock both win, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would provide any tie-breaking vote to give the party control of the Senate.

That would give Biden the chance to shape a more generous stimulus package and pursue other legislative goals on health care, climate change and immigration.

But if either incumbent Republican Senators Loeffler and Perdue win re-election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will remain in charge, able to block any part of Biden’s agenda by preventing it from coming up for a vote.

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