ATLANTA, United States (AFP) – US President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden went to Georgia yesterday to rally their party faithful ahead of twin runoffs that will decide who controls the US Senate, one day after the release of a bombshell recording of the outgoing president that rocked Washington.
If Democratic challengers defeat the Republican incumbents in both races today, the split in the upper chamber of Congress will be 50-50, meaning incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will have the deciding vote.
The duelling rallies by the outgoing president and his successor were set to be the final exclamation mark on a two-month blitz in the southern state awash in campaign donor cash.
But instead, Sunday’s release of Trump’s stunning conversation with Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, only succeeded in diverting attention from the Senate races, a must-win for his party.
In the audio recording, Trump urges Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes” – one more than Biden’s margin of victory – and makes vague threats that Raffensperger and his general counsel could face “a big risk” if they failed to honour his request.
Raffensperger is heard responding: “Well, Mr President, the challenge that you have is, the data you have is wrong.”
Months after the presidential election, Georgia is still in full campaign mode, with buses ferrying candidates around to small-town rallies, signs everywhere and door-to-door canvassing.
Republicans are typically the favourites in this traditionally conservative state. But Democrats are hoping Biden’s surprising November 3 victory in Georgia – the first Democrat to win the state since 1992 – is a bellwether for today.