STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
One day after the Electoral College affirmed his win, President-elect Biden campaigns in Georgia today. Two Democrats are on the ballot for Senate seats. Both are in runoff elections - January 5 - against Republican incumbents. If Democrats were to win both seats in that conservative-leaning state, they would control the Senate. If Republicans win either of the two seats, they hold onto Senate control, so it's a big deal. Emma Hurt with member station WABE in Atlanta is covering the story. Good morning.
EMMA HURT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.
INSKEEP: What do Democrats want to hear from Biden today?
HURT: So as you said, President Trump lost the election in Georgia. So Joe Biden is here to make the case to Georgians that Trump's policies are still very much on this ballot even if his name isn't. And also, Biden has this unique position to counter what Republicans have been saying about the two Democratic candidates, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, namely that they're, quote, "radical socialist liberals." And I heard about this from Stefan Turkheimer, who's a Democratic strategist from Georgia.
STEFAN TURKHEIMER: When they talk about radical liberal this and socialist that, that was never able to attach to Biden. So when Biden stands on the stage with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and puts his arms around them - maybe from six feet away - it's basically saying, these are my guys. And I wouldn't stand here if they weren't part of what I'm doing.
HURT: Turkheimer says Biden's presence is basically putting up a barrier for the candidates against those labels.
INSKEEP: I'm just trying to picture putting his - your arms around someone from six feet away.
INSKEEP: That's a fun little image. Maybe you use, like, sticks or something like that.
INSKEEP: In any case, what are the prospects for Biden's side given that Georgia is Georgia?
HURT: Yeah. So I mean, at the top of the ticket, President Trump was actually the worst performing Republican in the state. And the rest of the ticket looked different. The Senator David Perdue, one of the Republicans in this runoff, actually slightly outperformed the president and earned nearly 90,000 more votes than his Democratic opponent. And in the other race, Republican Kelly Loeffler, if you add up all the Republican votes in her special election in November, they also outperform Democrats. So actually, going into these Senate runoffs, Republicans appear to have the advantage. And also, historically, Republicans have always won runoffs in Georgia.
INSKEEP: Is this race all about President Trump on the Republican side?
HURT: It - you know, it's looking that way because of the way the president hasn't conceded or really backed out of the fray. He tweets about Georgia almost daily at this point. And because he did lose Georgia, for Democrats, that's actually kind of ideal because they're trying to make the case that a vote for their candidates is still a vote against Trump. And on the Republican side, Senators Perdue and Loeffler have leaned into this. They've defined their political careers and campaigns around the president. They've both supported his claims of voter fraud. But this has made their message a little bit difficult because they're refusing to acknowledge Biden's victory. But the specter of total Democratic control of government is a big motivating force for their voters.
INSKEEP: Yeah. If you're a Republican, you'd want to say keep the Senate in Republican hands so that you have something to push against the Democratic House and the Democratic president. But they're pretending there isn't a Democratic president, which makes them hard to say they would be against the Democratic president that they're denying the reality of.
HURT: That's it. It's a confusing situation for Republicans.
INSKEEP: Very briefly, how's early voting going?
HURT: You know, we've had anecdotal reports of really steady turnout. This is not a sleepy runoff, no technical issues. And on top of early voting, we've got just over 1.2 million absentee ballots requested, which is almost as many votes as were cast in our last runoff in 2018.
INSKEEP: Wow, people still using the absentee ballots. Good to know. Emma, thanks so much.
HURT: Thanks, Steve.
INSKEEP: Emma Hurt of WABE in Atlanta.
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