December 3, 2020 | By Arick Wierson and Bradley Honan | Original Article
If the next five weeks were to have a theme song, at least in political circles, it would be “Georgia On My Mind,” a song made popular by Ray Charles in 1960. With two competitive US Senate runoffs slated for January 5 in the Peach State, the fate of the Joe Biden presidency hangs in the balance.
Aside from Biden, who won the state by fewer than 13,000 votes, Georgia has voted for only two Democrats in presidential contests since 1964 — Jimmy Carter in 1976 and 1980 and Bill Clinton in 1992. And it’s been nearly 25 years since Georgians last elected a Democrat to the US Senate.
We live in solidly blue and affluent states — New York and Minnesota — but so far we have not heard one peep about being asked to donate — or do anything — on behalf of either of the two Democratic candidates in Georgia. If winning these two seats is so crucial to the success of the Biden presidency — and we believe it is — Ossoff, Warnock and the DNC should be mobilizing Democrats from coast to coast.
For donors who are already tapped out, enlisting them to make millions of get out the vote calls to ensure every Georgia Democrat knows the nation is counting on them could be just the nudge that drives high turnout on Election Day.
Why Biden is still hanging out in Wilmington, Delaware, or Washington, DC, when the future of his presidency will be decided hundreds of miles to the south in Georgia defies political logic. Biden should set up shop — at least temporarily — in Atlanta and shine a spotlight on the vast implications of the two runoff contests. As a freshly-minted President-elect who comes into office on the heels of a record-breaking vote — and accompanied by Kamala Harris, the first woman of color as his vice president — a relocation to the state would be a bold move for an administration with equally big aspirations.
Biden undoubtedly has advisers telling him to stay away from Georgia, persuading him he will suffer politically if his direct involvement doesn’t deliver a win in these races — but that is shortsighted. If Democrats don’t win these two races, or at least one of them, Biden and Harris will suffer far more damaging political consequences.
The Ossoff and Warnock campaigns need to enlist former Presidents Bill Clinton, the “Son of the South,” and Barack Obama. Although Clinton has been sidelined from campaigning for Democratic causes a bit in recent years, his role as the nation’s “explainer in chief” could be particularly helpful to help both native Georgians and Democrats from across the country understand the enormous stakes at play in the runoff. Clinton could also play a particularly critical role in persuading White voters in the suburbs — a cohort, according to exit polls, Trump narrowly won in November, 51% to 48%.
Democrats need to put Trump back on the ballot. He was a powerful force in turning out both Democratic voters and Republican-leaning suburban voters disgusted with his rhetoric and tweets. And Loeffler and Perdue, who remain Trump’s faithful enablers, should constantly be forced to defend their loyalty to an inept leader who cannot accept a peaceful transfer of power. In other words, Ossoff and Warnock need to tap into that same primal fear of another Trump presidency that motivated voters in November.
Such a move would likely exacerbate a rift within the state GOP about how best to deal with Trump. Republicans are still fighting over the state’s election results, blaming each other and casting doubt on its voting system. That Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are now actively engaging in the Georgia runoff — traveling there in support of Loeffler and Perdue — provides the perfect setting to tie the two incumbents to the President whom Georgians just voted out of office.
Combatting Covid and rebuilding a lagging economy are not mutually exclusive. According to exit polls, on Election Day, voters in Georgia were more likely to cite the need to contain the coronavirus virus (51%) than rebuild the economy (44%). However, Ossoff and Warnock should double down on the linkage between the two, emphasizing the importance of containing the virus as a precursor to rebuilding the economy, and in doing so, drawing attention to the more than 8,800 Georgians who have perished from Covid.
Democrats used Covid to hit Trump during the general election, but once Biden assumes office, they effectively will own not only the pandemic response but getting the economy back on its feet. They need to be talking about the two issues in the same breath.
If Democrats don’t win these two races, Biden and Harris will be in for a long four years. The party must work hard to motivate Democratic voters in Georgia and like-minded Democrats across the country, a tall feat given that many of them are breathing a sigh of relief now that Trump has been defeated. But that sigh of relief cannot turn into complacency in this critical special election.