U.S. President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and outgoing President Donald Trump are all planning to campaign in the southern state of Georgia in the final two days ahead of next Tuesday's crucial Senate runoff elections.
Harris is staging a rally Sunday in the Atlantic coastal city of Savannah for the Democratic contenders, the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Baptist minister, who is opposing incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler, and Jon Ossoff, a television documentary producer who is running against Republican Senator David Perdue.
Biden and Trump both have announced rallies for Monday, the day before the Tuesday in-person voting.
Biden will rally with the two Democrats in Georgia's biggest city, Atlanta, while Trump is stumping for Loeffler and Perdue farther north in Whitfield County at the Dalton Regional Airport. Vice President Mike Pence has previously campaigned in the state for the two Republicans, as have two of Trump's adult children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump.
The two runoff elections became necessary because none of the four candidates won a majority in their respective November 3 elections, although Perdue led Ossoff in their two-man race and Warnock topped Loeffler in a 10-candidate field. The latest polling shows both contests too close to suggest who might win either vote.
The outcome holds importance in Washington, with political control of the Senate at stake during the first two years of Biden's presidency after he is inaugurated January 20.
Republicans are set to hold a 50-48 advantage after members of the new Senate are sworn in Sunday. Victory in either or both Georgia elections would give Republicans an outright majority and the right to set the Senate agenda and hold a majority on all Senate legislative committees.
But if both Warnock and Ossoff were to win, there would be a 50-50, Democratic-Republican split in the Senate, giving Harris the opportunity to break tie votes in favor of the Democrats in organizing the committees and controlling the legislative calendar.
Republican control would complicate passage of Biden's legislative agenda over the next two years, likely forcing extensive negotiations on such controversial issues as extending health care benefits, setting immigration controls and establishing climate regulations. Democratic control, if the party's members vote as a bloc, could ease the path for Biden's initiatives.
Georgia, once a reliable Republican stronghold, narrowly swung to Biden over Trump in the November 3 election by just under 12,000 votes out of the 5 million cast. Despite Trump's protests that election fraud cost him the state's 16 electoral votes in the Electoral College that determines the outcome of U.S. presidential elections, a first count of the vote and then two recounts all showed Biden the winner.
Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to win Georgia in 28 years, giving the party the hope that Warnock and Ossoff could also win their contests.
Voter turnout for the runoffs is expected to be heavy, with more than 2.3 million people having already cast early ballots — 1.5 million in person and 800,000 by mail. Another 500,000 voters have requested mail-in ballots.
But the vote count so far is not known since early ballots can only be tallied starting Tuesday.
Turnout so far has been highest in some of the heavily populated areas around Atlanta that handed Biden his narrow victory in the state.