It’s all hands on deck in Georgia with just one week until two runoff elections that will determine the fate of the Senate and President-elect Joe Biden’s first two years in office.
Politicians and political strategists, meanwhile, worry that an ongoing debate over stimulus checks will be a determining factor in the two races between incumbent GOP senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and their Democratic opponents, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Republicans agreed to individual stimulus checks up to $600 for all qualifying Americans until President Trump intervened last week and said he would veto any bill that didn’t provide $2,000.
By asking for the extra money, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will block in the Senate and which mainstream Republicans oppose, the President is setting expectations too high and making Republicans look bad ahead of the Georgia election next Tuesday, GOP legislators say.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn told reporters this week that by focusing on extra stimulus money, Trump was distracting voters from celebrating Republican achievements. “I think focusing on the $900 billion that we’ve already approved, and that [Treasury] Secretary Mnuchin helped us negotiate, which now he has now signed, instead of taking appropriate credit for those good things, focusing on this I think undermines…the very positive impact that we’ve already done,” he said.
To add to the troubles, new numbers out of Georgia show a record-breaking surge in early voting, which tends to bode well for Democrats, as Republicans are more likely to vote day-of. Over 2.3 million people had voted by Tuesday morning through mail-in ballots or in-person early voting, more than any other runoff election in the state’s history. Black voter turnout made up a higher percentage of the electorate than it did in November’s general election, and turnout in Democratic congressional districts was also higher.
That means that in order to win, Republicans need to drive turnout and focus on Election Day. It also means any ongoing struggles between Trump and McConnell over the $2,000 stimulus check will impact Republican voters more than Democratic voters.
The outcome of the Georgia races will determine the majority party in the Senate and could make huge differences in future COVID relief plans, health care bills, and student debt forgiveness.
Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will campaign in the Peach State this week, and former President Barack Obama and musician John Legend released a new campaign ad for Ossoff.
Both Loeffler and Perdue have said they support the $2,000 stimulus check proposal. Meanwhile, the Treasury issued a statement on Tuesday saying that physical checks for the already approved $600 stimulus would be mailed starting Wednesday.
More politics coverage from Fortune:
- Why a key Georgia county flipped from red to blue—and what it means for Democrats
- Pfizer, Trump, and Biden: A twisted triangle that’s complicating COVID-19 relief
- Biden’s first 100 days: Student loan debt won’t go anywhere
- Congress COVID-19 relief bill includes $15 billion for Broadway, small music venues, movie theaters
- PPP borrowers get the tax break the IRS tried to cancel