Biden tells Georgia ‘whole nation’ watching ahead of Senate election

Joe Biden said the “whole nation” was watching Georgia as he urged voters in the state to back Democrats in two US Senate elections that will determine which party controls the upper chamber.

Returning to the campaign trail for the first time in three weeks, Mr Biden spoke on Monday in Atlanta, the state capital, just one day before the pivotal run-off elections.

“Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you to lead us forward,” Mr Biden said. “One state can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation.”

If Democrats win both races, the party will take back the reins of the Senate, controlling both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, giving Mr Biden much more leeway to achieve his legislative goals. But if either loses, Republicans will retain control of the upper chamber, allowing them to frustrate his agenda.

Mr Biden urged voters to cast their ballots for Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, Democrats who are challenging Republican incumbents Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

Donald Trump, the outgoing president, was set to hold a rally in Dalton, in the north-west of the state, later on Monday. His visit comes one day after The Washington Post published audio of an explosive call in which the president pressured the state’s top election official to overturn the results of the November presidential election there.

The last-minute visits from both Mr Biden and Mr Trump underscore how much importance both parties are placing on Tuesday’s contests, which have become the most expensive legislative races in US history. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than $771m has been spent on the two contests.

“By electing Jon and the Reverend [Warnock], you can make an immediate difference in your own lives, and the lives of people all across this country,” Mr Biden said, adding that the senators would “put an end to the block” on $2,000 stimulus cheques to support Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wrangling in Washington over extra direct payments has become a key issue in the Georgia races, with the Democrats blaming congressional Republicans for a failure to act.

Mr Biden also slammed Mr Trump over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and vaccine distribution.

He said: “The president spends more time whining and complaining than doing something about the problem. I don’t know why he still wants the job; he doesn’t want to do the work.”

The Republicans enter the Senate campaigns in Georgia as the presumed favourites, given the party’s grip on the southern state in recent decades.

But Mr Biden’s narrow victory in the presidential contest there on November 3 — with some 5m votes cast, he won by a margin of just under 12,000 votes — has given Democrats renewed hope that they can win. Mr Biden was the first Democrat to win Georgia in a presidential contest since Bill Clinton in 1992.

The run-offs are being held under arcane state rules that require a head-to-head contest if no one candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the vote in the general election. Both Senate seats are up for grabs because Ms Loeffler was last year appointed to fill a vacancy left by Johnny Isakson, a Republican senator who retired before the end of his term.

The latest FiveThirtyEight average of recent opinion polls shows Mr Ossoff leading Mr Perdue by 1.6 points and Mr Warnock leading Ms Loeffler by 2.1 points — both within the margin of error.

More than 3pm people have already voted early in Georgia, according to the University of Florida’s US Elections Project, setting a record for a run-off election.

Voter registration information suggests early voting has favoured Democrats, with a large share of black and young voters — who tend to prefer Democrats over Republicans — casting their ballots in advance of election day.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.