Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will travel to Georgia to campaign for next week’s high-stakes Senate runoff elections, it was announced on Wednesday, as Donald Trump called on the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, to resign.
For weeks, Trump has been attacking Kemp for his refusal to overturn the results of Georgia’s presidential election, a state he won in 2016 and narrowly lost to Biden in 2020, and on Wednesday went as far as to call on his fellow Republican to resign.
“@BrianKempGA should resign from office,” Trump wrote in a tweet that encouraged supporters to watch a broadcast of a hearing on purported election irregularities. “He is an obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG! Also won the other Swing States.”
Kemp, long considered a staunch ally of the president, has refused to embrace Trump’s meritless accusations that the state’s vote count was tainted. Earlier this month, Kemp recertified Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for Biden after multiple recounts affirmed Biden’s victory in the state.
Despite dozens of lawsuits brought by the Trump campaign, they produced no credible evidence of widespread voter fraud in Georgia or any other state. Yet Trump’s insistence that the presidential vote was fraudulent has rattled some Republicans in the state who fear his unfounded claims may depress turnout among his supporters ahead of runoff elections, scheduled for 5 January.
The runoffs will determine which party controls the Senate.
“I love the Great State of Georgia, but the people who run it, from the Governor, @BrianKempGA, to the Secretary of State, are a complete disaster and don’t have a clue, or worse,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Tuesday night. “Nobody can be this stupid. Just allow us to find the crime, and turn the state Republican….”
He also made reference to a conspiracy theory that claims the Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, has a brother named Ron who works for a Chinese tech firm, which purportedly explains his refusal to accept Trump’s unfounded claims about voter fraud in the state. The man is not related to Raffensperger.
Trump will hold a rally with Georgia’s Republican senators in Dalton on Monday, setting up a split screen with Biden, who will campaign for the Democratic challengers, the Rev Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, in Atlanta on the same day. On Sunday, Harris will appear with the Democrats in Savannah, while Vice-President Mike Pence has made frequent visits to the state on behalf of the Republican candidates.
Multiple recounts affirmed Biden’s victory in Georgia, and made him the first Democratic presidential nominee to carry the state since 1992. Strong turnout among Black, Latino and Asian voters as well as a rejection of Trump by some college-educated white voters who traditionally vote Republican helped push Biden over the top, giving Democrats hope ahead of the two runoff elections.
If Democrats win both Senate seats, each party would hold 50 seats in the Senate next year. With Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote, Democrats would effectively control the chamber. Should Republicans hold on to one or both of the seats, they will continue to control the Senate, led by the majority leader, Mitch McConnell, who is all but certain to use his power to curb the legislative aspirations of the incoming administration.
McConnell and Trump are currently at odds over the president’s demand to increase coronavirus relief checks from $600 to $2,000, an issue that has become central in the final days of the Georgia runoffs.
On Tuesday, McConnell blocked an attempt led by Democrats to hold a vote on approving the larger payouts, even as more Republicans rallied around the idea, including Perdue and Loeffler. Perdue had previously said he was opposed to sending direct payments to Americans and believed tax incentives were more effective.
Warnock and Ossoff, who support increasing the size of the checks, have sought to leverage the ongoing battle in the Senate, pointing to McConnell’s blockade as an example of what Democrats could accomplish if they were in control.
Runoff elections are historically low-turnout affairs, but, given the stakes, the twin contests have attracted a rush of national attention – and investment. Warnock and Ossoff both raised more than $100m, stunning sums that far surpassed their Republican opponents. Yet outside Republican groups are spending heavily on the race, outstripping Democratic groups.
That enthusiasm has been reflected in early voting. Numbers released by the Georgia secretary of state’s office on Wednesday show that more people – 2,566,332 as of Tuesday – have voted in the upcoming election than in any runoff in the state’s history.
On Wednesday morning, Ossoff’s campaign released a minute-long ad narrated by Barack Obama and featuring the musician John Legend singing Georgia on My Mind. In the spot, Obama praises Georgia voters for rejecting “fear and division” by electing Biden on 3 November and implores them: “America’s counting on you again.”
One day after the election in Georgia, Congress will vote to certify the electoral college result, which confirmed Biden as the nation’s next president earlier this month. On Wednesday, the Republican senator Josh Hawley announced that he plans to object to the certification process, despite opposition by McConnell and other leading Republicans who have accepted the electoral college vote as final.
Hawley’s objection will prompt a floor debate and a vote that will probably delay but not derail Congress from certifying Biden’s victory. Trump has pressured his allies on Capitol Hill to intervene in a last-gasp effort to reverse the results of the election. The effort has mostly gained traction among Trump loyalists in the House, which is controlled by Democrats. But the incoming Republican senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama has said he is considering signing on to a challenge as well.
“At the very least, Congress should investigate allegations of voter fraud and adopt measures to secure the integrity of our elections,” Hawley said in a statement, outlining his rationale. “But Congress has so far failed to act.”