President-elect Joe Biden will travel to Georgia next week to campaign with Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, hoping to boost the Democratic candidates in runoff elections that could decide the balance of power in the Senate — and with it the fate of his Cabinet and his governing agenda.
Biden's trip to Atlanta on Tuesday will be his first campaign event since he secured the presidency last month, timed to coincide with the beginning of early voting in Georgia on Monday.
Other than a brief Veterans Day trip to Philadelphia, Biden has not left his home state, Delaware, since having been declared the victor on Nov. 7. He has spent most of the month since then meeting with his transition team to plan for his administration, including the selections of key members of his Cabinet, which will require confirmation by the narrowly divided Senate.
Some decisions are complicated because his team does not yet know whether the fate of potential nominees will rest with a Republican Senate majority led by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or an evenly divided body in which Democrats hold a tiebreaking vote in Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Based on results of November's elections, the Senate will include at least 50 Republicans, 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats.
Incoming White House chief of staff Ron Klain has said both Biden and Harris would campaign in Georgia, as President Donald Trump already has for the Republican incumbents, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
"It's obviously important to win those seats in Georgia," Klain said last month on NBC News' "Meet the Press."
If "we have more people who support the kinds of things that Joe Biden supports, I think we're going to have ... a better government," he said.
Klain said that as important as the races are, however, "we're not going to let anything deter us from moving forward with our agenda."
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Last month, Biden became the first Democrat to win Georgia in a presidential election since 1992. Trump has contested the results there and in other battleground states, but this week the Republican secretary of state recertified Biden's victory of more than 11,000 votes after multiple recounts.
At the same time, Perdue barely fell short of receiving the 50 percent of the vote he needed against Ossoff to avoid a runoff in his bid for a second term. In the other race — a special election with multiple candidates from both major parties — Warnock received nearly a third of the vote, while Loeffler, who was appointed to the seat this year, got 26 percent to advance to a head-to-head showdown Jan. 5.
National Republicans have expressed concern that Trump's attacks on the integrity of the election, along with his public battles with state Republican leaders who have rebuffed his efforts to challenge the outcome, could dampen enthusiasm among the party's base. But Democrats will also need to amass the same strong turnout, without a presidential race leading the ballot, that they have historically failed to win in the past.