ATLANTA - After all the ads and overwhelming attention, the next few years of the United State's political direction has come down to Georgia.
Georgia voters will decide the balance of power in Congress with a pair of high-stakes Senate runoff elections.
Democrats must win both of the state’s Senate elections to gain the Senate majority. In that scenario, the Senate would be equally divided 50-50 with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker for Democrats.
Democrats already secured a narrow House majority and the White House during November’s general election.
Even a closely divided Democratic Senate likely won’t guarantee Biden everything he wants, given Senate rules that require 60 votes to move most major legislation. But if Democrats lose even one of Tuesday’s contests, Biden would have little shot for swift up-or-down votes on his most ambitious plans to expand government-backed health care coverage, strengthen the middle class, address racial inequality, and combat climate change. A Republican-controlled Senate also would create a tougher path for Biden’s Cabinet picks and judicial nominees.
"Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you. The power is literally in your hands," Biden charged at a rally in Atlanta Monday. "One state can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation."
At a rally in Dalton, Georgia with President Donald Trump, Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler got loud cheers after announcing that she would join other GOP senators in objecting to the Electoral College certification.
"I have an announcement Georgia," Loeffler said. "On January 6 I will object to the Electoral College vote."
Trump encouraged his supporters to show up in force for Georgia’s Tuesday contests.
"You’ve got to swarm it tomorrow," Trump told thousands of cheering supporters, downplaying the threat of fraud.
Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman and co-owner of the Atlanta Dream, was appointed to the office by Gov. Brian Kemp, is trying to fend off Democratic challenge and senior pastor at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue spent the last day of campaigning at home, locked down in quarantine after close exposure to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. His cousin, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, stepped in to push Republicans to vote.
Perdue faces off against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide and journalist who would be the Senate’s youngest member if elected.
This week’s elections mark the formal finale to the turbulent 2020 election season more than two months after the rest of the nation finished voting. The stakes have drawn nearly $500 million in campaign spending to a once solidly Republican state that now finds itself as the nation’s premier battleground.
The results also will help demonstrate whether the sweeping political coalition that fueled Biden’s victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new landscape.
Biden won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes by about 12,000 votes out of 5 million cast in November.
Democratic success will likely depend on driving a huge turnout of African Americans, young voters, college-educated voters, and women, all groups that helped Biden become the first Democratic presidential candidate since 1992 to win Georgia. Republicans, meanwhile, have been focused on energizing their own base of white men and voters beyond the core of metro Atlanta.
More than 3 million Georgians voted before Tuesday.
The runoff elections come as Trump continues his unprecedented campaign to undermine election results across various states he lost. In a recording of a private phone call made public on Sunday, the president told Georgia’s secretary of state to "find" enough votes to give him an outright victory in the state, even after repeated recounts, failed court challenges, and state certification.
A new Insider Advantage/FOX 5 Atlanta poll showed Loeffler and Warnock as well as Perdue and Ossoff tied at 49 percent each, with 2 percent undecided.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.