Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida campaigned with Sen. Kelly Loeffler Wednesday at a rally for the freshman senator’s runoff bid, the first of what will likely be many high-profile visits to Georgia ahead of the Jan. 5 runoff elections.
Loeffler, an Atlanta businesswoman, is running alongside fellow Republican Sen. David Perdue in a pair of runoffs that are poised to settle the balance of power in the Senate.
Rubio aimed to energize a packed hundreds-strong crowd of supporters Wednesday at the Cobb County Republican Party headquarters in Marietta, where he railed against “radical elements” in the Democratic Party that could hold sway in the Senate if Loeffler and Perdue lose in January.
“This is literally the showdown of all showdowns in terms of politics and what it means,” Rubio said. “This is Georgia’s decision to make, but it’s America that will live with the consequences of that decision.”
Perdue, a corporate executive from Sea Island, was in Washington, D.C., and did not attend Wednesday’s rally, his office said. His wife Bonnie appeared to speak in his stead.
The runoff races between Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and between Perdue and Democratic nominee Jon Ossoff have thrust Georgia into the national political spotlight with control of the U.S. Senate potentially hanging in the balance.
Wins for both Ossoff and Warnock in the Jan. 5 runoffs would likely tip the Senate in the Democrats’ favor along with control of the U.S. House and the presidency, clearing the way for President-elect Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers to enact their priorities with little resistance for at least the next two years.
Republican and Democratic leaders across the country are poised to pull out all the stops in Georgia with huge campaign donations and big-name backers like Rubio expected to arrive in the coming weeks.
Ossoff, an investigative journalist, kicked off his runoff campaign on Tuesday by rallying with several Georgia Democratic leaders and health-care advocates in support of the Affordable Care Act, which faces a legal challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Warnock, the senior pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, has put out a pair of new campaign ads that highlight his humble Savannah upbringing and urge voters to cut through attack ads from Loeffler that are set to roll out in the coming weeks.
Warnock and Ossoff are expected to team up frequently for campaign events ahead of Jan. 5, as are the two Republican senators. Already, Perdue and Loeffler jointly pressed this week for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to resign following the Nov. 3 presidential election, as state election officials continue brushing aside unproven claims of ballot fraud made by President Donald Trump.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger ordered a hand recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in Georgia’s presidential election with Biden leading Trump by roughly 14,100 votes. The recount should wrap up by Nov. 20.
Early voting for the Senate runoff elections starts Dec. 14. The deadline for Georgia voters to register for the runoffs is Dec. 7.
Photo: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida energizes supporters during a rally for U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler at the Cobb County Republican Party headquarters in Marietta on Nov. 11, 2020. (Photo by Beau Evans)