One pandemic, two different worlds in Georgia runoff races David Perdue Joe Biden Donald Trump Kelly Loeffler Georgia

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On the grounds of a South Georgia courthouse, dozens of masked and socially distant voters bowed their heads in prayer for the more than 260,000 Americans who have died from the coronavirus.

Then Democratic Senate hopeful Raphael Warnock took the microphone, promising to push for more economic aid for businesses and people affected by the pandemic and touting Democratic plans to address racial disparities and long-standing wealth highlighted by the crisis.

A day earlier, Vice President Mike Pence had campaigned with Warnock’s opponent Senator Kelly Loeffler and fellow Republican Senator David Perdue, but in the very Republican north of Georgia there was no few mentions of the public health calamity that contributed to the defeat of President Donald Trump. : aid programs that passed Congress months ago and a vaccine that is still weeks – or months – from mass distribution.

“By the end of this year, we’re going to see 40 million vaccines across America,” Pence predicted, attributing the possibility to “President Donald Trump’s leadership.” His audience – left behind only in some seating sections and many not wearing masks – roared as the vice president added a kick: “We are in the realm of miracles.”

Two very different worlds are on display in Georgia, where the national political spotlight is on the two Senate towers that will determine which party controls the chamber at the start of President-elect Joe Biden’s Democratic administration. Republicans need one more seat for a majority; Democrats need a sweep on January 5.

For Republicans, the pandemic is secondary in a flow blitz defined by dire warnings about what it would mean if Warnock defeated Loeffler and Perdue fell to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Democrats, meanwhile, are more than keen to discuss COVID-19 and its economic fallout. The messaging differences also affect the public health protocols of both parties. The approaches largely follow the fall presidential campaign, when Trump wanted to talk about anything but the virus, while Biden focused his speech on Trump’s handling of it.

November’s results in Georgia explain why neither side is deviating. Biden cut Trump in the state of less than 13,000 votes out of more than 5 million votes. But Perdue led Ossoff by around 100,000 votes, finishing just short of the absolute majority Georgia needs to avoid a runoff. Warnock led Loeffler in a separate special election. The two sides share a common conclusion: each party has a pool of potential voters approaching 2.5 million. It’s just a question of which side can convince the most to vote in the second round.

Republican retaliation will again depend – in part – on generating enthusiasm through in-person campaigns, even as coronavirus cases rise nationwide. Trump has announced his intention to hold a December 5 rally in Georgia, after weeks of speculation he would come amid his continued refusal to concede to Biden. As with the president’s rally blitz in October, there is no suggestion that his Georgia event will include social distancing or require masks, as recommended by public health officials.

Neither Perdue nor Loeffler echoed the president’s derision of public health standards. But so far in the second-round campaign, they’ve run multiple indoor events without social distancing and no mandatory masks. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, appearing with Loeffler, drew hundreds of suburban Republicans to the Cobb County GOP headquarters, surprising organizers and cluttering the facility to the point that some voters left without trying to enter.

Florida Senator Rick Scott drew a similar crowd to a restaurant in suburban Cumming for an event with the two incumbents in Georgia. Days later, Scott said he tested positive for COVID-19 and was exposed the same day he traveled to Georgia. Loeffler also later announced her own positive test, though consecutive negative tests followed in the days that followed, leading her to end a brief quarantine.

Loeffler acknowledges the pandemic in his standard speech highlighting the votes of her and Perdue for the Spring Economic Relief Package.

Warnock and Ossoff against with an almost exclusively external or virtual campaign. Warnock has, however, curated outdoor photo lines that don’t involve social distancing.

“We haven’t seen any real national public mourning because it’s the kind of death that doesn’t come all of a sudden,” Warnock told Reynolds, where he campaigned under a picnic canopy. outside. “We don’t see any real recognition of what’s going on. … Meanwhile, we have a debate about science. Wearing a mask is somehow a political statement? No, this is not a political statement. It is common sense. “

Ossoff kicked off the second campaign tour with a statewide tour of drive-thru rallies similar to the ones Biden used after Labor Day. Ossoff went to solitary confinement in July after his wife, an OB-GYN, contracted COVID-19. His ads often show him greeting voters with masks.

Both Democrats also criticized Loeffler and Perdue for their timely stock trading after a series of private briefings from Congress on the then-burgeoning pandemic.

“While you were taking refuge, she was protecting her investments,” Warnock told Buena Vista.

A recent announcement from Ossoff says Perdue “took advantage of the pandemic” instead of “preparing our country.”

Senate ethics officials and the Justice Ministry found no legal wrongdoing in the financial activity of Georgian senators.

Ossoff also sought to tie Perdue’s loyalty to Trump to the pandemic. The president has spent weeks asserting baseless allegations of electoral fraud in Georgia and other battlefield states Biden has won, without Perdue disputing the claims.

Trump’s efforts for an orderly transition, Ossoff said in an interview, hampered Biden’s ability to stage a government response to the coronavirus.

“What Senator Perdue should do, if he had the best interests of the people at heart and not just his own,” Ossoff told The Associated Press, “is to encourage the president to recognize reality. “

Associated Press writer Ben Nadler contributed to this report from Atlanta.

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