Just one day before President Trump is set to travel to Georgia to campaign for the two Republican U.S. senators running to retain their seats, former President Barack Obama headlined a “Get Out the Vote” virtual rally Friday afternoon put on by Georgia Democrats to support the two Democratic candidates in the January runoffs.
“The special election in Georgia is going to determine, ultimately, the course of the Biden presidency and whether Joe Biden and Kamala Harris can deliver legislatively all the commitments they made,” Obama said during the event.
Former Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams moderated the virtual rally, which included appearances by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Georgia Rep.-elect Nikema Williams, and both Democrats on the ticket in the runoffs: the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
The two runoff races in Georgia will determine which party takes control of the Senate next month. Republicans currently control 50 seats in the chamber, while Democrats hold 48. If both Warnock and Ossoff win, Democrats will have the edge in the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote.
“If the Senate is controlled by Republicans who are interested in obstruction and gridlock, rather than progress and helping people, they can block just about anything,” Obama said. “We need a politics that works for ordinary people, not for insiders or the high and mighty.”
In an impassioned speech that lasted about 20 minutes, Obama praised the efforts of Georgia Democrats in flipping the state blue, for the first time since 1992, in favor of President-elect Joe Biden.
“My first message is thank you, Georgia,” Obama said. “The problem with doing a good job is people ask for you to do it again. This will decide what President-elect Biden can do during his presidency.”
Obama expressed confidence in Warnock and Ossoff’s ability to bring Georgians together following Trump’s presidency, which he said was marked by “division.” He said Warnock and Ossoff were building a coalition that includes every race, ethnicity and income bracket, which Obama called “a vision of what not just Georgia, but America, could be.”
The former president also tore into the records of the pair of Republicans on the ticket: Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who have both faced criticism for their stock trades.
“You’ve got two incumbent senators, who, in the midst of the worst public health crisis of our lifetimes, were worried about their stock portfolio,” Obama said. “Goodness gracious! That alone should tell you something. Somehow we’ve become inured to this kind of stuff.”
Abrams also expressed her gratitude to Georgians statewide for the work they’ve already done, including the many who voted by mail in the presidential election in record numbers. On Thursday she tweeted that more than 1 million Georgians had requested absentee ballots for the Senate runoff race on Jan. 5. But she also reminded viewers that the work was not done.
“This election matters, but more importantly you matter,” Abrams said. “It’s incredibly important that we get to work now. We have the power to change things and ... have access to the things we deserve. Let’s get it done.”
Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, added that the nation does not suffer from a lack of resources, but rather “from a lack of moral imagination.”
At one point during his speech, Obama joked, “Since I have a reverend here, let me give a testimony.
“The Senate really matters,” he added. “This is about America and this is about the world.”
Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021:
Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Getty Images/Getty Images for EIF & XQ, Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
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