President Donald Trump, still seeking ways to reverse his election defeat, and President-elect Joe Biden converge on Georgia on Monday for dueling rallies on the eve of runoff votes that will decide control of the US Senate.
Trump, a day after the release of a bombshell recording in which he pressures Georgia officials to overturn his November 3 election loss in the southern state, is to hold a rally in the northwest city of Dalton in support of Republican incumbent senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
Biden, who takes over the White House on January 20, is to campaign in Atlanta, the Georgia capital, for the Democratic challengers, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
Loeffler, 50, who was appointed to the Senate in December 2019 after the serving senator resigned for health reasons, is taking on Warnock, the 51-year-old African-American pastor at the Atlanta church where the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr once preached.
Perdue, 71, a former CEO of Dollar General who was elected to the Senate in 2014, is running against Ossoff, the 33-year-old head of a television production company.
Georgia has been a reliably Republican state but Biden defeated Trump by around 12,000 votes in the Peach State and polls have both Senate races neck-and-neck.
Republicans hold 50 seats in the Senate and a victory in just one of the runoff races would give them the majority and the ability to thwart Biden’s agenda.
A Democratic sweep would result in a 50-50 split in the Senate with Democrats holding the tie-breaking vote in Vice President Kamala Harris.
The 78-year-old Biden is expected to speak around 4:30 pm (2130 GMT) while the 74-year-old Trump is scheduled to take the stage in the evening in Dalton, a city of around 30,000 people in a rural, conservative Georgia district.
– ‘Find 11,780 votes’ –
The Georgia rallies come a day after the publication by The Washington Post of a shocking recording of Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger that rocked Washington.
On the tape, Trump tells Raffensperger he wants to “find 11,780 votes” — one more than Biden’s margin of victory in Georgia — and makes vague threats that Raffensperger and his general counsel could face “a big risk” if they failed to do so.
Trump repeatedly and falsely claims during the hour-long conversation that he won Georgia, an assertion that has been refuted in recounts and in the courts.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying, you know, um, that you’ve recalculated,” the president tells Raffensperger. “You’re off by hundreds of thousands of votes.”
Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, rebuffs Trump’s claims telling him: “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Harris, the vice president-elect, slammed Trump’s call during a campaign stop in Georgia on Sunday as a “bald-faced, bold abuse of power by the president of the United States.”
Harris also stressed the importance of Tuesday’s Senate votes. “Everything is at stake,” she said. “The future of our country will be very much in the mix.”
The Georgia elections come one day ahead of the certification by the House of Representatives and Senate of the Electoral College votes from the November presidential election.
Biden won 306 of the Electoral College votes that represent the returns of the popular vote in each of the US states, while Trump won 232.
Certification by Congress is generally just a formality but more than 100 Republican members of the House and about a dozen Senate Republicans have said they plan to raise objections.
At least one member of the House and one member of the Senate needs to lodge an objection to certification to send it to the floor for debate and a vote.
A vote would be doomed to failure, however, in the Democratic-controlled House and would also be unlikely to pass in the Republican-majority Senate, where a number of Republican senators have already acknowledged Biden’s victory.
Trump lashed out on Twitter on Monday at Republican lawmakers who have refused to line up behind his baseless claims of voter fraud.
“How can you certify an election when the numbers being certified are verifiably WRONG,” he said.
“The ‘Surrender Caucus’ within the Republican Party will go down in infamy as weak and ineffective ‘guardians’ of our Nation, who were willing to accept the certification of fraudulent presidential numbers!” he added. – AFP