Jan. 4 (UPI) — The final day of campaigning for two U.S. Senate runoffs in Georgia to determine which party controls the upper chamber was shaken up Monday by President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the presidential election results.
Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and President-elect Joe Biden each visited the state during the day to buttress the fortunes of the four candidates as control of the Senate hung in the balance.
They were coming against the backdrop of controversy caused by release of a recording of a phone call made by Trump to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, asking him to “find” the votes necessary to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the state.
Pence made a final pitch for Republican incumbent David Perdue and appointee Kelly Loeffler at a church about 50 miles south of Atlanta at noon.
During remarks at Rock Spring Church, Pence did not mention Trump’s false allegations that votes had been stolen in Georgia, although rally participants chanted “Stop the Steal” during the vice president’s speech.
Trump, meanwhile, was scheduled to hold an evening rally in Dalton in the northwestern part of state, about 35 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tenn. There, he promised to share the “real numbers” about the presidential election.
Biden was scheduled to hold a rally for Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and David Warnock in Atlanta at 4 p.m.
On the recording, released Sunday by the The Washington Post and NBC News, Trump cites unfounded conspiracy theories and claims of fraud, threatening Raffensperger and Germany with potential legal and political consequences if they failed to throw the election to him.
Before that conversation, there had been 18 attempted calls from the White House to Raffensperger’s office since the November election, CNN reported.
Ossoff and Warnock seized on Trump’s comments in making their final pitches to Georgians — 3 million of whom already have voted in a record turnout for a runoff.
Trump’s call constituted “a direct attack on our democracy,” Ossoff said Sunday at drive-in rally to unseat incumbent Republican Perdue.
Perdue, however, told Fox News on Monday that he “didn’t hear anything in that tape that the president hasn’t already said for weeks now,” echoing unsubstantiated allegations that “something untoward happened here in Georgia” despite Biden’s win withstanding multiple recounts and audits.
Warnock, who is facing Loeffler on Tuesday, tweeted, “Georgia elected [Joe Biden and Kamala Harris]. That’s a fact. [Loeffler] has a responsibility to speak out against these unsubstantiated claims of fraud, defend Georgia’s elections, and to put Georgia ahead of herself. But she hasn’t. And she never will.”
By mid-morning Monday, Loeffler had made no specific comments regarding Trump’s call.
In a visit to Georgia on Sunday, Harris accused the president of a “bald-faced, bold abuse of power” in a bid to reverse the presidential election results.