Senate Hinges On Georgia, GOP Mostly Silent On Biden's Victory : Consider This from NPR President Trump may be on his way out, but Republicans will have to rely on his voters to hold power in the Senate. If Democrats win two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, they will win a narrow Senate majority.

Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting explains how Republicans in Georgia are attacking the state's election process.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, explains how Democrats in Georgia turned out voters in the presidential race.

In participating regions, you'll also hear a local news segment that will help you make sense of what's going on in your community.

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As Senate Hinges On Georgia, GOP Mostly Silent On Biden's Victory

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As Senate Hinges On Georgia, GOP Mostly Silent On Biden's Victory

As Senate Hinges On Georgia, GOP Mostly Silent On Biden's Victory

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

So what's the endgame here?

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MITCH MCCONNELL: The president has every right to look into allegations and to request recounts under the law.

CORNISH: Leading Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have so far refused to acknowledge President-elect Joe Biden's victory, even as that margin of victory has continued to grow the more votes are counted. As of Tuesday afternoon, only four Republican senators have publicly acknowledged it. McConnell, who spoke on the Senate floor Monday, is not one of them.

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MCCONNELL: The projections and commentary of the press do not get veto power over the legal rights of any citizen, including the president of the United States.

CORNISH: But the press have also projected victory for many Republican Senate candidates. In fact, just hours after he spoke on the Senate floor, McConnell held a photo op with four of them - new Republican senators from Wyoming, Tennessee, Alabama and Kansas.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right. Let's wrap it up. Thank you very much.

CORNISH: He took no questions.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: All right, guys. Come on. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: All right. Thank you. We're done.

CORNISH: But there are two Republican senators up for reelection whose races are not over.

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MANU RAJU: President-elect Joe Biden's agenda now being shaped by the outcome of two Senate races in Georgia.

CORNISH: In Georgia, where both Republican Senate candidates ran against more than one opponent, both of them failed to win 50% of the vote. By state law, the election now heads to a runoff in January between the top two candidates.

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RAJU: If the GOP wins one or both seats, Republicans will control a narrow majority, with GOP leader Mitch McConnell setting the chamber's agenda no matter what Biden wants to do.

CORNISH: CONSIDER THIS. The president may be on his way out, making baseless claims about voter fraud. But Republicans still need his supporters to vote in Georgia because if Democrats win there, the balance of power in the Senate tips in their favor.

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CORNISH: From NPR, I'm Audie Cornish. It's Tuesday, November 10.

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CORNISH: It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. The two Republican Senate candidates in Georgia are David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler, who will face off against Democrat Raphael Warnock, is running as a close ally of the president. She's used him in campaign ads like this one.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She has been fantastic. She was with me 100% on the impeachment hoax. She's been with us all the way. And she's...

CORNISH: And Perdue's attacks on his opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff, are straight out of the president's playbook.

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DAVID PERDUE: A socialist government chooses your health care, kills jobs and takes more of everybody's money to pay for their radical agenda that has failed across the world.

CORNISH: Now their elections are headed to runoffs, and they're raising the stakes.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Just today, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler sent out a joint statement demanding that the Republican secretary of state in Georgia, Brad Raffensperger, resign.

CORNISH: That's right. They're going after the state's top official in charge of voting, a Republican. Now, in a statement, that official said he wasn't going anywhere. And this all happened hours after a press conference on Monday morning...

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GABRIEL STERLING: OK. It's loud. You need to step forward so I can hear you.

CORNISH: ...When Gabe Sterling, the state's voting system implementation manager, spent half an hour debunking disinformation about the voting process.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

STERLING: No.

CORNISH: He talked about reports of ballots found in dumpsters...

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STERLING: There were no ballots there. We sent investigators down. What they found was empty security envelopes...

CORNISH: ...Isolated delays in vote counting...

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STERLING: It was a configuration issue, where they have a single adjudication server...

CORNISH: ...Access for election observers.

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STERLING: Republican and Democrat monitors were there in the room...

CORNISH: For each unfounded claim, Gabe Sterling had a detailed explanation.

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STERLING: The hammer and scorecard issue - so we saw a lot of ticket-splitting.

Adjudicated ballots get put to one side over here.

In one scanner, she had forgotten to add a school board race.

Automatic opening machine...

Hand-input into the EMS from the tapes...

The adjudication module was not being used to figure out - to discern a person's vote. It was being used to get the write-ins off of the BMDs - ballots, OK? Because there's no way to get that off of the scanner, so you have to go through the adjudication...

CORNISH: Bottom line is, there are lots of explanations for how the vote panned out in Georgia. Widespread fraud isn't one of them.

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STERLING: The facts are the facts, regardless of outcomes. And that's one of the things we're focusing on here, is getting our count accurate and right, giving accurate information so at the end of the day, everybody, regardless of whose side...

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CORNISH: One big question now is whether Republicans attacking the integrity of the election process will make Republican voters more or less likely to turn out in Georgia's runoff elections. Neither the president nor the president-elect will be on the ballot in those races, which take place on January 5, so turnout is harder to predict. But there does seem to be a deliberate effort among Republicans to attack the state's election process, even though Republicans hold the vast majority of power in state government. I spoke with reporter Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting about that.

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STEPHEN FOWLER: Georgia's a Republican trifecta, meaning the GOP controls the governor's mansion and both chambers of the state legislature. And Republicans, until this year, were the ones that used absentee mail-in ballots the most. That being said, several top Republicans in Georgia have tried to assert, without evidence, this aura of wrongdoing over this election without citing any specific examples. And believing these assertions would require a suspension of disbelief.

CORNISH: I also want to talk about the race itself because both Perdue and Loeffler are facing tight runoffs in January that obviously could, you know, decide control of the U.S. Senate. They'll need to make sure they turn out the party's base to win. Is that what this is about - right? - keeping the Trump base interested in these races?

FOWLER: Right. So it seems to be this is a pretty coordinated message trying to call into question Georgia's election. You had Perdue and Loeffler issue a statement. You had President Trump say that he was going to win Georgia big, even though he's down by about 12,000 votes. You have Congressman Doug Collins, a longtime Trump defender, coming out to lead the recount effort in Georgia.

And this is definitely a concerted effort to signal to the Republican base in Georgia that they are going to fight for every legal vote to be counted, as they say, to make sure that they're the ones that will defend the president and defending the Republican Party ideals if they get reelected to the Senate.

CORNISH: With all this talk about the state perhaps turning blue - right? - going for Biden, what could this mean for the Democrats that these Republicans are fending off?

FOWLER: Right. So Jon Ossoff is facing off against David Perdue. He's a young investigative documentary filmmaker who has cast himself as somebody who is going to root out corruption. And David Perdue symbolizes that. In the other Senate special election, you've got Reverend Raphael Warnock, a pastor of MLK's historic church, a Black Southern progressive who is rallying around things like health care and voting rights access. And both of these Democratic candidates are trying to latch onto the moment of 2020 of all of this unrest around race relations and health care and the COVID-19 pandemic and to ride that message into a potential victory for both U.S. Senate seats.

CORNISH: I don't know what it's like there now in terms of probably all the advertising you're being bombarded with, the kind of continuous campaigning. Is it all about the Senate? I mean, is that where the stakes are right now?

FOWLER: So the presidential election hasn't officially been called yet. But for all intents and purposes, the Senate election has already begun. You've seen high-profile surrogates plan to come to town, like Senator Marco Rubio. And Andrew Yang said he's going to move to Georgia for the next two months. And so I'm fully expecting that I'm going to get nothing but campaign mailers for Christmas this year.

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CORNISH: Stephen Fowler with Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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CORNISH: For Democrats to win in Georgia, they'll try to rally all of the people who turned out for Joe Biden to come out and vote again. How did they do it the first time?

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VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT KAMALA HARRIS: And about the generations of women, Black women...

CORNISH: In her speech Sunday night, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris highlighted the work Black women did to turn out the vote in 2020.

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HARRIS: Including the Black women who are often - too often - overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy.

(CHEERING)

CORNISH: And one of those women is Natasha (ph) Brown, activist and co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund. We spoke about how Democrats turned out so many voters in Georgia.

Can you talk about the last two or three years of activism that you think has helped push Georgia into the blue column?

LATOSHA BROWN: Yes. I think that if ever we need an example of how deep community organizing and coordination works, I think Georgia is an example of that - that over the last three years, there's been intense coordination between social justice groups, community-led groups, Black-led groups throughout the state of Georgia, in metro Atlanta, as well in some of the areas like Savannah and Macon and South Georgia and Albany.

And so as a result, what we see is we see this record turnout of Black voters. You know, in the state of Georgia, more Black voters voted for Vice President Biden than they did for Obama. And that in itself says that it hasn't just been about being candidate-centered. It's been about being people-centered. And so as a result of the deep organizing, what you see is the turnout where Black voters have certainly made the difference in Georgia.

CORNISH: You know, just next door, Alabama Senator Doug Jones, a Democrat - he ended up really struggling - right? - to hold onto his seat. So there are kind of limits in terms of getting turnout out there. What lessons do you think people can take away from the experience in Georgia?

BROWN: I think we have to recognize that you have to continue to build. There are often times what you see in some of these elections - when the energy is just centered around a candidate or around one particular election and you lose that momentum and don't continue to build from that, we never would have gotten here.

But what we saw, even particularly after 2018 in the race and Stacey Abrams lost, we were that much more determined to make sure that we were in play in this election cycle and that our voice would be heard. And so part of what I think is a key lesson is that instead of putting all your political resources in television ads, that when you invest directly on the ground, it can yield a great harvest.

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CORNISH: Natasha Brown, activist and co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund.

So we began with the question, what's the endgame? When will more Republicans acknowledge Joe Biden's victory? According to Delaware Senator Democrat Chris Coons, some already have. Here's Coons Tuesday morning on CNN when he was asked what Republicans are telling him behind the scenes.

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CHRIS COONS: Bluntly, that they accept that - I mean, they call me to say, you know, congratulations; please convey my well wishes to the president-elect. But I can't say that publicly yet. And...

JOHN BERMAN: Wow.

COONS: So...

ALISYN CAMEROTA: When?

COONS: These are...

CAMEROTA: I'm just curious.

COONS: ...Conversations best kept private.

CAMEROTA: When - and - OK. And when will they be able to say that publicly?

COONS: I - my job here, I think, is to continue to urge them privately to do the right thing and to help the president accept reality and to help their caucus stand up publicly because, frankly, the transition is going to be chaotic at best if it doesn't get moving very soon. It should be underway already.

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CORNISH: We'll have more on what's happening with that transition and what's not on the show later this week.

It's CONSIDER THIS FROM NPR. I'm Audie Cornish.

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