Whereas the US Senate is at stake and Trump is raging, Georgia is voting in runoff elections

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump travels from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington to West Point, New York

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By Nathan Layne and Joseph Ax

ATLANTA (Reuters) – U.S. Senate control – and with it the ability to block or advance Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda – is at stake in two runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, after a dizzying campaign that spends spending and spending shattered early turnout records.

Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler attempt to detain Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, and Rev. Raphael Warnock, a pastor of a historic black church in Atlanta, in a state of Biden that was narrowly held on November 3rd.

The final days of tumultuous competition have been dominated by President Donald Trump’s continued efforts to undermine the election results. On Saturday, he pressured the state’s Republican foreign minister to reverse Biden’s victory, alleging massive fraud against the evidence.

Both Trump and Biden fought in Georgia on Monday, Trump in the northwestern state, and Biden in Atlanta.

The president called the November 3 election “rigged” and falsely claimed he won the state on Monday when he used his speech to voice complaints about his defeat.

“There was no way we lost Georgia,” said Trump, ticking off a long list of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about electoral fraud.

Biden’s November victory, the first for a Democratic presidential candidate in Georgia in nearly 30 years, was not confirmed for more than a week. Two recounts and subsequent legal challenges from the Trump campaign drove the state’s final certification into December.

“We have won three times here,” joked Biden at the rally on Monday when he called on the Georgians to vote democratically. “This is not an exaggeration: Georgia, the whole nation is looking at you.”

A double Democratic victory would split the Senate between 50 and 50, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would give the Democrats control of the Senate. The party already holds a slim majority in the House of Representatives.

A Republican-controlled Senate would likely block many of Biden’s most ambitious policy goals in areas like economic aid, climate change and policing.

EARLY VOTE RECORD

The polls are open until 7 p.m. (2400 GMT). Approximately 3 million ballots have already been cast in early face-to-face and postal votes, reflecting a trend seen in November due to the pandemic.

The winners are unlikely to become known on Tuesday, and perhaps for days, as state officials are not allowed to start counting early votes until the polls are complete.

Opinion polls have shown that both races are extremely close. Nearly half a billion dollars in advertising has masked the airwaves of the state as dozen of independent political groups have come to Georgia.

The Democrats had been encouraged by the early vote, which included strong numbers of black voters who were seen as critical to their chances. But Republicans historically emerged in greater numbers on Election Day.

Perdue and Loeffler have tried to do a careful balancing act, backing Trump’s rigged electoral claims, arguing that they are the final obstacle to an era of unbridled liberalism in Washington.

“We will look back on that day if we don’t vote and really regret the day we hand over the keys to the kingdom to the Democrats,” Perdue said in an interview with Fox News on Tuesday.

At Monday’s rally, the crowd broke into a “Fight for Trump” cry as soon as Trump mentioned Loeffler and Perdue by name.

On Monday, Loeffler said she would be protesting the confirmation of Biden’s victory if Congress convenes on Wednesday to officially count the presidential election and join about a dozen other Republican senators. Perdue, whose term of office technically ended on Sunday, has spoken out in favor of the extraordinary step that has virtually no chance of success.

The campaign has seen bitter attacks, with Loeffler and Perdue characterizing the Democrats as “radical socialists” and Ossoff and Warnock describing the incumbents as deeply corrupt.

Loeffler said the country’s “way of life” was on the ballot, while Warnock told supporters Tuesday was a “defining moment in American history”.

The runoff elections, a peculiarity of constitutional law, became necessary when no candidate earned 50% in either race in November.

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